Friend Tells Police Hart Mother Sent Early Text About Illness Days Before SUV Cliff Crash
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — One of the mothers who died when an SUV plunged off a Northern California cliff sent a text two days before the wreckage was discovered, saying she was so sick she might have to go to a hospital, according to 911 call records from Washington state.
Cheryl Hart of Vancouver, Washington, said she received the alarming message from Sarah Hart at 3 a.m. March 24, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Wednesday. Cheryl Hart shares the same last name but said she’s not related to the family.
On March 26, Cheryl Hart called a Clark County emergency dispatcher to report that she had not heard back from her friend in two days.
“Nobody has been able to get ahold of her, talk to her or seen her since … or her wife, which is Jen,” she told the dispatcher at 1:15 p.m. on March 26. She also said she had checked hospitals, but none said they had a record of treating Sarah.
Several hours after she called authorities, the family’s SUV was discovered at the bottom of a scenic Mendocino County cliff.
Authorities found the bodies of Sarah and Jennifer Hart and three of their adopted children, Markis, Jeremiah and Abigail. Three other children, Hannah, Sierra and Devote, are still missing. On Saturday, a body was pulled from the surf in that area and authorities are working to determine whether it belongs to one of the children.
Other records released to The Oregonian/OregonLive this week from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services show Child Protective Services initially tried to contact the Harts on March 23 after abuse allegations were made against them by the family’s next-door neighbors.
An official went to the family’s home, knocked and rang the doorbell and left her card in the front door, records said. Two officials returned March 26 — the day the Harts’ SUV was found — and the card from the Friday before had been removed. One of the officials left another card and called law enforcement and requested a welfare check.
A deputy went the same day to the home in rural Woodland, Washington, and no one appeared to be home, records said.
Authorities returned the next day, and no one appeared to be home again.
In 2011, Sarah Hart was convicted of domestic assault in Minnesota for physical abuse involving one of the children who was then 6 years old, according to court records. The family also was investigated in 2013 when they lived in Oregon after a family friend reported witnessing “controlling emotional abuse and cruel punishment” toward the children.
Authorities said previously that data from the vehicle’s software suggested the crash was deliberate. They said the SUV had stopped at a coastal highway overlook before speeding straight off the cliff and plummeting 100 feet (31 meters) into the rocky Pacific Ocean below.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday said deputies will keep searching the county coastline for the missing children as calls for service allow and that search and rescue divers are readying to be deployed to the crash site area once ocean conditions improve.
One of the missing children is Devonte, 15, who drew national attention after he was photographed in tears while hugging a white police officer during a 2014 protest.