Jury Rules Family of 8 Died by Murder-Suicide, Lesbian Couple Drove 6 Adopted Children Off Cliff
A California coroner’s jury decided late Thursday that a lesbian couple killed themselves and their six adopted children by driving off a cliff last year.
After a coroner’s inquest, the jury found Thursday that Jennifer and Sarah Hart killed themselves and murdered their entire family on March 26, 2018, when they drove off a cliff in Mendocino County, The Associated Press reported.
Their six adopted children, ages 12 to 19, all died in the crash.
Authorities opened an investigation into the couple’s alleged mistreatment of their children just days before the fatal crash, sending social workers to the house on March 23, according to NBC News.
The Harts immediately left their home in Woodland, Washington, and drove to northern California, where they died.
California Highway Patrol investigator Jake Slates said records recovered from Sarah Hart’s phone show deleted searches about suicide, Benadryl and overdose methods, and whether drowning is painful, People reported.
After recovering the family’s bodies, authorities determined that Sarah Hart had toxic levels of Benadryl in her body, according to Mendocino County Sheriff Deputy Robert Julian.
Jennifer Hart also had a blood alcohol level over the legal driving limit, according to Slates.
Jury rules The California cliff crash that killed a couple and their 6 adopted kids was a murder-suicide! #MurderSuicide https://t.co/IwVzfbE3jP pic.twitter.com/ahMSErJZNN
— Joy105.com (@Joy105com) April 5, 2019
The children had large amounts of sleep-inducing drugs in their bodies at the time of death, Slates said, according to NBC News.
“They both decided that this was going to be the end,” Slates said. “That if they can’t have their kids that nobody was going to have those kids.”
A witness told police he thought he might have heard cries for help the night of the crash, according to People.
The body of 15-year-old adopted son Devonte Hart has not been recovered.
“It is my belief that both Jennifer and Sarah succumbed to a lot of pressure,” sheriff’s Lt. Shannon Barney said Thursday, according to NBC News. “Just a lot of stuff going on in their lives, to the point where they made this conscious decision to end their lives this way and take their children’s lives.”
The suicide-murder comes after a neighbor filed a complaint alleging that the Harts deprived their adopted children of food as a form of punishment.
Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to spanking one of the children in a 2011 domestic assault charge case.
Child welfare authorities also investigated the couple in 2013 but did not pursue a case against them, according to NBC News.
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