From the outside, they seemed like a happy family. The Hart Tribe, as they were known, comprised of two married women and six adopted children in Washington State.
But something sinister might have been lurking under the surface.
Last week, authorities found nearly every member of the family dead after a crash off the Pacific Coast Highway - a crash that appeared to be intentional. Authorities don't know when the incident took place, but said all members of the family were in the car when it happened.
The parents, Sarah and Jennifer, as well as three of their children — Jeremiah and Abigail, both 14, and 19-year-old Markis — were found dead in the crushed SUV. The other three children — 15-year-old Devonte, 16-year-old Hannah and 12-year-old Sierra — are missing and may have been washed out to sea, authorities said.
“This specific location is very difficult to search because the ocean currents and tides are strong, it’s unpredictable, and the murkiness of the water makes it difficult to see,” Captain Greg Van Patten, a spokesman for the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, told the Associated Press, in a public statement.
The California Highway Patrol Northern Division pulled information from the vehicle's software. The SUV was stopped on a flat, dirt area before it sped off the face of the cliff and plummeted 100 feet. The speedometer was "pinned" at 90 MPH, according to The Oregonian. The vehicle's info, combined with the lack of skidding or any signs of braking, led authorities to believe the crash could have been intentional.
Police have not determined why one of the members would drive the car into an apparent suicide plunge.
The family took trips across country and participated in social causes. A photo of Devonte hugging a cop during the Ferguson protests in 2014 even went viral.
Social services in Washington State recently opened an investigation into the family because a neighbor said the children were being denied food, and there was possibly some abuse going on in the home, according to The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California. The home is located in Woodland, about 25 miles north of Portland, Oregon.
In 2011, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to domestic assault involving one of her daughters, according to KGW8 News in Portland.
Authorities searched the amily's home looking for anything to shed light on the crash.
“To the best of my knowledge, there was not a suicide note found at the residence,” Baarts told the Associated Press, adding that authorities have been interviewing friends and relatives of the Harts.
The family's deaths attracted national attention, with the social media users posting the hashtag #RIPHartFamily to honor them.
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