Police: Jennifer Hart was drunk when she drove family off cliff

This March 20, 2016 photo shows Hart family of Woodland, Wash., at a Bernie Sanders rally in Vancouver, Wash. Authorities in Northern California say they believe all six children from a family were in a vehicle that plunged off a coastal cliff. Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allmon told reporters Wednesday, March 28, 2018, that only three bodies of the children have been recovered. Their parents also died Monday. (Tristan Fortsch/KATU News via AP)

California Highway Patrol officials say Jennifer Hart's blood alcohol content at the time of a deadly crash in which her entire family perished was .102.

Jennifer Hart along with her partner, Sarah, and three of their adopted children were killed when their SUV crashed off a cliff in Mendocino County, Calif. on Monday, March 26.

Jennifer and Sarah's three other adopted children have been reported missing, and police believe they were likely in the car at the time of the crash.

In a news conference Friday, the Mendocino County Sheriff announced Jennifer's BAC at the time of the crash was .102. Sarah Hart, along with at least two of the children, had "significant" amounts of an ingredient found in Benadryl in their systems.

No one in the car was wearing a seat belt.

"Facts in the case are coming at a rapid pace," the sheriff said.

They've also confirmed the Hart family's SUV was about 70 feet from the cliff's edge when Jennifer accelerated. She was driving somewhere between 20 to 30 mph when the car went off the cliff.

Authorities believe the crash was intentional, but have released no other details.

RELATED: 'Punishment seemed unnecessarily cruel': Hart family friend seeks change to honor children

Previous allegations of abuse, neglect

KATU News has reported on several other incidents involving the Hart family that eventually led to an investigation by Washington State Child Protective Services.

In 2017, one of the Hart children jumped out of a second-story window and begged her neighbors for help. She said her parents were racist, abusive and whipped her.

In the weeks leading up to the crash, Devonte Hart went to his neighbor's house several times asking for food, adding his parents were punishing him and not allowing him to eat.

In 2013, a family friend said she "witnessed what I felt to be controlling emotional abuse and cruel punishment" toward the six children. Alexandra Argyropoulos said she was told the children had been interviewed by officials but there was nothing more the Oregon Department of Human Services could do because there was not enough evidence to make a case.

After reporting her concerns in 2013, Argyropoulos said, she was told the Hart children had been interviewed by officials from the Oregon department; it was apparent that each child had been coached by their mothers on what to say; and nothing more could be done.

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. One of her daughters, who was 6 years old at the time, showed her teacher she had bruising all over her back and torso.

And in 2008, a report obtained by KATU News says one of their daughters claimed Jennifer beat her using a belt. When confronted by officials, Jennifer and Sarah Hart said the little girl was misbehaving, and added she likely got her bruises from falling down the stairs.


close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off

Trending