Search on for missing children after California cliff SUV wreck

Now, authorities have some of those answers as they're starting to piece together what exactly happened and why it did.

The CHP also revealed new information that has led investigators to conclude that the SUV driven by either Sarah or Jennifer Hart intentionally went over a cliff from the Pacific Coast Highway.

Baarts said the speedometer in the vehicle was "pinned" at 90 miles per hour when they recovered it at the bottom of the cliff near Mendocino, California.

Sarah and Jennifer Hart and three of their children, 19-year-old Markis Hart, 14-year-old Jeremiah Hart and 14-year-old Abigail Hart, were found dead at the crash scene near Westport, California, on Monday, March 26. The couple's other children - Hannah, 16, Devonte, 15, and Sierra, 12 - are still missing. But Sheriff Tom Allman said there is "every indication" all 6 children were inside the SUV at the time.

Days before the wreck was discovered, neighbors called Washington state child-welfare authorities to say one of the youngsters had been coming to their house nearly daily asking for something to eat and complaining that his parents were withholding food as punishment.

Greg Baarts, acting assistant chief of the California Highway Patrol's northern division, said data from the incident showed that the vehicle appeared to have stopped approximately 70 feet away from the cliff, before it accelerated forward and plunged over the edge, reported The Washington Post. The CHP spokesperson described it as: "Pure acceleration all the way".

"It was documented at the time of the crash, the vehicle was "pinned" or was traveling at '90 miles per hour.' However, that information is not conclusive or factual". The crash may have caused that number.

"They portrayed this happy little family and yet their daughter is telling us please, please, please, begging us not to go back they're abusing her and then Devonte coming over here and telling us that he's being starved to death", she said.

The photograph of their embrace, captured by a freelance photographer, was shared around the world and may have driven the family to relocate to Washington from OR, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said. Jennifer was driving at the time of the crash.

The police report said "that her mom had put her in the bathtub and turned on cold water and then hit her.also stated that her mom had hit her with a fist. It's really hard to imagine", she said. Jennifer and Sarah were a married couple who had previously resided in West Linn Oregon. There, they homeschooled their children.

Bruce and Dana DeKalb, next-door neighbors of the Harts, said they called child protective services because 15-year-old Devonte had been coming over to their house nearly every day for a week, asking for food.

The children were adopted in Texas in 2006 and 2009, according to Tiffani Butler, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

"We do have reason to believe, however, that the crash was intentional", he added. The department said it had no history with the Hart family.

The Woodland, Washington neighbor who tried to help the Hart children and called child protective services on March 23 said word that the crash was likely intentional was not a shock to him. If they were abusive, the friends would have known, he said.

Records showed that the Hart children were removed from public school in Alexandria, Minnesota the day after Hart reached a probation agreement in a child abuse case on April 14, 2011.

"None of that lines up with the people we all knew".

  • Jon Douglas