After college in South Dakota, Harts adopted children in Texas
WEST LINN, Ore. —
Sarah and Jennifer Hart, the couple authorities say drove off a cliff in California with their adoptive children last week, met in South Dakota and were together for about two decades.
KATU has also learned when they adopted their six kids, three of whom were found dead after the crash. The other three are still missing.
On Monday, Officer Cal Robertson, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) spokesman, told KATU it's unclear who was driving the family's SUV at the time of the crash in Mendocino County.
Robertson said they're awaiting autopsy results to determine who was driving.
KATU also uncovered more information about the family's time in West Linn, Oregon.
Authorities in Mendocino County said Sunday that the rough, cloudy waters of the Pacific Ocean have prevented divers from going below the surface as they search for answers in the horrific case. They also said a search of the family's home near Woodland, Washington has yielded few explanations as to why they would purposely drive to their deaths.
“There was not a suicide note that was found at the residence," said CHP Capt. Greg Baarts, who told reporters investigators suspect the crash was intentional.
West Linn police confirmed that they contacted the family in July of 2013 and referred the case to Oregon's Department of Human Services (DHS). DHS told KATU it can neither confirm nor deny they investigated the case per state law.
Tiffani Butler, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said Sarah and Jennifer Hart adopted three of the children there in 2006 and three more in 2009. She said they were all foster children but couldn't confirm much more other than to say that anyone adopting kids in Texas must go through a rigorous vetting process. She said it includes home visits, a criminal background check and more.
CHP, meanwhile, said the case is still under investigation and has a long way to go. They said it's important to not draw conclusions from the fact that the speedometer was pinned at 90 miles per hour.
"It certainly does not mean the vehicle was going that fast prior to going over the cliff. The most likely cause for that reading is the shock from the impact," Baarts said Sunday. "You cannot use that information solely as the basis for the speed that the vehicle was going. There's several other factors that need to be considered."
KATU ran criminal background checks on both Jennifer Hart and Sarah (Gengler) Hart, both 38, in Oregon, Washington, Texas and South Dakota where a local newspaper says they went to college together. We could find no criminal charges against them in those states.
As KATU has reported Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to domestic assault in Minnesota in 2011.
The Aberdeen News in South Dakota says the couple attended Northern State University there in the early 2000s.