A jury has ruled on the deaths of the Hart family of Woodland whose vehicle crashed into the Pacific Ocean just more than a year ago in Northern California following a coroner’s inquest last week.
The jury ruled that the six adopted Hart children’s deaths were a homicide while the parents, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, committed suicide, according to Mendocino County Sheriff Thomas Allman at a press conference following the jury’s verdict April 4.
“Thousands of hours of investigation and searching have gone in the last year,” Allman said. The inquest began April 3 with the jury deliberating for less than an hour before making the unanimous decision, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
The inquest and verdict was the latest update in a case dating back to March 26, 2018, when the Hart’s vehicle was found in the ocean off California Highway 1. Siblings Markis, Jeremiah and Abigail, along with their parents Jennifer and Sarah, were found dead following the March 26 crash; sibling Ciera’s remains were found about a week later and were positively identified later in April.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office announced Jan. 9 they had received word of positive identification of partial remains of Hannah Hart, the fifth sibling. The sixth, Devonte Hart, was never recovered though he was ruled to have died in the crash.
Allman noted that there were people who believed that Devonte Hart was not in the car at the time of its crash, to whom he welcomed any information they could provide to corroborate the claim.
Given “the fact that there were five states involved” regarding child abuse allegations against the Harts prior to the crash, including Washington, Allman felt the case could be “an enlightening moment” for federal lawmakers to consider the creation of a national database, something that currently does not exist.
Allman said the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office was closing its investigation pending any additional information on either Devonte or Hannah Hart’s deaths. He noted that the sheriff’s office had not had a coroner’s inquest in 52 years, however, given the amount of loss of life in one instance, having the procedure was necessary because “we as a society need to know the facts of that case.”
“The Hart family is hopefully resting in peace,” he said.