Devonte Hart, the 15-year-old whose photo went viral during the 2014 protests of the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson PD officer Darren Wilson, is missing after his family’s SUV careened off of a cliff. On Monday, Hart and his family left their home in Washington State and traveled to California, when the accident occurred near Mendocino.

The accident left no skid marks which is confusing to authorities, but they say they do not suspect that the SUV was intentionally driven off of the cliff into the rocks and surf below. The bodies of adoptive parents Sarah and Jennifer Hart, along with 19 year old Markis Hart, and 14-year-olds Jeremiah and Abigail Hart, have been recovered, but authorities believe all six of the family’s children were in the vehicle.

The trip seems to have been planned to last only a short time, because many of their belongings and a pet remained at the family’s residence in Woodland, Washington, a suburb of Portland. Police are still searching for gas or hotel receipts in order to establish a timeline of events which might nail down the time window the crash may have occurred.

Shortly before the crash, the Hart parents, who are white, were reportedly under investigation by the Washington State Department of Health and Human Services because they had identified the Hart children, who are Black, as “potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect.” In 2010, Sarah Hart plead guilty in a misdemeanor domestic assault case involving one of the children after the child complained to a school nurse that they had pain on their back and stomach, which were discovered to be bruises.

A photo of Jennifer and Sarah Hart and their six children, three of whom are dead following a car crash in California.
Photo Credit: Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office
Photo Source: Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office

Still, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman told the media on Sunday they are not considering the act a murder suicide, despite theories going around social media. “We have no evidence and no reason to believe this was an intentional act,” Allman said. “If this was an intentional act, I truly believe that both between the highway patrol and the sheriff’s office, we are going to come to that conclusion. And if we come to that conclusion, you can be assured that that information will be released to the public.”

 

Update: After previously urging that the accident was not intentional, authorities are now conceding that due to the speedometer being “pinned” at 90 MPH that the SUV was purposefully driven off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean.
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