Criminal complaint: 6-year-old told teacher 'Mom hit me,' had bruises on front and back
One of the women who was killed in a crash along with most of her family members was accused of spanking her daughter so hard, the child had bruising on her torso and back.
The allegations, which come from a criminal complaint filed in Minnesota 8 years ago, center around 39-year-old Sarah Hart. Sarah, along with her partner Jennifer and three of their adopted children, was killed earlier this week in a crash in northern California. Authorities say the SUV they were driving went off cliff in Mendocino County.
A search continues for three of their other children, who have yet to be found. Authorities have every reason to believe they were with their parents and other siblings in the car at the time of the crash. One of the missing children is 15-year-old Devonte Hart, who was seen in a famous photo, hugging a police officer three years ago at a Portland protest about the events in Ferguson, Missouri.
The criminal complaint KATU News obtained Thursday says one of the couple's children told her teacher she had "owies on her tummy." When the teacher lifted her shirt, she saw the 6-year-old had bruises on her front side, from her sternum to her bellybutton, and on her back from midway down her back to the waistband of her pants.
When she was interviewed by police, Sarah said she and her partner do not usually use spanking as punishment, but they recently "resorted to spanking" to deal with the little girl's behavior. Sarah then told police she "let her anger get out of control the previous day. She took [the girl] into the bathroom and bent her over the edge of the bathtub," hitting her over the backside and admitting the bruising likely came from that incident.
Sarah was charged with malicious punishment of child and domestic assault. She eventually pleaded guilty to domestic assault, and the malicious punishment of child charge was dropped.
More recently, KATU News confirmed Child Protective Services visited the Hart family home just outside Woodland, Wash. last Friday, March 23. They were prompted to the home after a neighbor reported one of the Hart kids repeatedly came to her home, asking for food and saying his parents were withholding it as punishment.
No one answered the door that time, but neighbors say they saw the Hart family quickly pile into an SUV and drive off shortly after.
CPS returned to the home on March 26 and March 27 but no one answered. Around the same time, authorities say the Hart family was involved in a deadly crash in Mendocino County, Calif. The SUV they were driving plunged off a cliff, killing the entire family.
Authorities have located Sarah and Jennifer's bodies, as well as the bodies of three of their children; 19-year-old Markis Hart, 14-year-old Jeremiah Hart and 14-year-old Abigail Hart.
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. Police have said they were likely in the car as well.
Jennifer and Sarah adopted all six of their children, and have been homeschooling them in recent years.