She has been identified as 16-year-old Hannah Hart, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said in a Wednesday news release. One child, Devonte, 15, remains missing.
“The most likely scenario is that he, too, perished in this incident, but the case remains open and active,” the sheriff’s statement said.
Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, adopted two sets of siblings: Devonte was brother to Jeremiah, 14, and Ciera, 12, while Hannah was the sister of Abigail, 14, and Markis, 19.
After Jennifer — by all indications, intentionally — drove the family off a cliff along US Highway 101 on March 26, authorities quickly identified the mothers, along with Markis, Jeremiah and Abigail. Two weeks later, Ciera’s body was found on a beach north of the cliff.
“In October of 2018, a woman who identified herself as the mother of Markis, Abigail and Hannah Hart contacted the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office and indicated she had heard of this incident via a family member,” the sheriff’s statement said.
The woman provided a DNA sample, and on Tuesday, the crime lab informed investigators that the remains were those of Hannah.
An elaborate ruse?
Among the allegations were that the Harts denied their kids food and forced them to lie on the floor for hours. Sometimes, punishment was meted out for behavior common among children, such as laughing at the dinner table.
The details of what preceded the family’s fate are not completely clear, but Bruce DeKalb, one of the family’s neighbors in Woodland, Washington, said the family moved to the area between mid-2017 and early 2018. They were “very private,” he said.
Shortly after they moved in, DeKalb said, one of the girls came to the DeKalbs’ door at 1:30 a.m. requesting protection because her parents were mistreating her.
“We ended up getting her back to her parents … and then I went over there the next morning and just checked on things, and everything seemed normal, and we let it go from there,” he said.
Prelude to a tragedy
The last sighting of the family came March 25, police said, when Jennifer Hart was seen on surveillance footage shopping at a Safeway in Fort Bragg.
“The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office is poised to follow up any viable investigative lead but has not received any indication of Devonte being located elsewhere,” the department said Tuesday.