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CPS visited home 3 times, identified children as 'potential victims of abuse or neglect'

From Left: Hannah, Abigail, Sierra, Jeremiah, Jennifer, Devonte, Markis, and Sarah Hart at a Bernie Sanders rally in Vancouver on March 20, 2016 - Photo by Tristan Fortsch, KATU News

Child Protective Services visited a Washington family's home three times before at least 5 of them died in a crash Monday in California.

The California Highway Patrol says Sarah and Jennifer Hart died along with their three children when their vehicle went off a cliff Monday. The children were identified as 19-year-old Markis Hart, 14-year-old Jeremiah Hart and 14-year-old Abigail Hart.

RELATED: Three kids missing after local family of 5 killed in California crash

Jennifer and Sarah's three other children, 15-year-old Devonte Hart, 16-year-old Hannah Hart and 12-year-old Sierra Hart have been reported missing.

Investigators have every indication that the missing children were also inside the vehicle at the time of the crash, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said. There's no evidence that the crash was intentional, they added.

Court records show Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge in Douglas County, Minnesota in 2011. Her plea also led to the dismissal of a charge of malicious punishment of a child. No other details were immediately available.

According to Child Protective Services, the children were identified as "potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect."

Bruce and Dana DeKalb, who live near the Hart family, told KATU News they called CPS last week after one of the Hart children came over to their house, asking for food, eventually several times a day.

A CPS worker visited the family's home Friday, but no one answered the door.

When that worker left, Dana DeKalb said the entire Hart family came out of the house, quickly loaded up their SUV, and took off. CPS officials confirmed they returned to the house on March 26 and March 27 but were not able to reach the family.

DeKalb said she believes the children reached out to her for help for some reason.

“Absolutely I think I was a lifeline. And yeah, I don't think it was my fault certainly. I just, wow, it's not how I thought it was gonna end. I thought it was gonna end in a beautiful life for them,” said DeKalb.

CPS workers tried to contact the family two more times, on Monday and Tuesday. The Department of Social and Health Services has not made any findings in the case and they have no prior history with the family.

DeKalb also said that one of the Hart's children tried to run away last fall.

Deputies with the Clark County Sheriff's Office searched the home, but found nothing unusual. They said there was no trace of the family's three missing children.

READ MORE: Boy who went viral in demonstration pic now missing after parents, siblings die in crash


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