Timeline of Hart family’s child-welfare issues

California

(KOIN) – As authorities investigate a possible sighting of Jennifer Hart on surveillance video in Fort Bragg, California, KOIN took a closer look at the child-welfare issues the Hart family faced in Minnesota, Oregon and Washington.

Minnesota 

– Sarah and Jennifer Hart adopt Markis, Abigail and Hannah Hart in 2006. Devonte, Sierra and Jeremiah had their adoption finalized in 2009, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.  All 6 children were from Texas.

– Children are enrolled in Alexandria, Minnesota public schools for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. Markis, Abigail, Jeremiah, Devonte and Hannah attend school from September 8, 2009 to April 15, 2011.  The youngest, Sierra Hart, attends kindergarten from September 7, 2010 to April 15, 2011.

– On November 15, 2010 6-year-old Abigail tells a teacher at Woodland Elementary School that she has “owies” on her stomach and her back, telling the teacher, “Mom hit me.” 

– Later that same day, Alexandria PD Detective Sgt. Larry Dailey and social worker Nancy Weibe from Douglas County Social Services conduct an interview with Abigail, who says that her mother hit her the previous day, November 14, 2010.  Jennifer and Sarah Hart are called to the law enforcement center that day and interviewed separately. Sarah admits to spanking Abigail while the child was bent over the tub, saying that she and her wife do not ordinarily use spanking as a disciplinary measure, but have recently started spanking Abigail due to her behavior. 

– On December 22, 2010, Sarah Hart is charged with one count of malicious punishment of a child and two counts of misdemeanor child assault. Malicious punishment of a child carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine; the two counts of misdemeanor domestic assault have a maximum penalty of ninety days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.  

Read: 2010 police report on domestic abuse in the Hart house

– On April 7, 2011, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to the 2 counts of misdemeanor domestic assault. Hart avoids jail time, but is placed on supervised probation for 1 year, monitored by Douglas County Probation. She also sentenced to community work service for an indeterminate period of time, in lieu of a fine. 

Read: Court documents on Sarah Hart from 2011

– Eight days later, on April 15, 2011, all 6 children are pulled out of Alexandria public schools before the end of the school year to begin homeschooling. 

Oregon 
– On July 19, 2013, West Linn Police Department makes a referral regarding the Hart family to Oregon Child Protective Services. Oregon CPS records related to the case are not publicly available. 

Washington 
– On March 23, 2018, Washington Department of Social and Health Service received a Child Protective Services referral identifying the Hart children as potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect. Spokesperson Norah West said the call was not characterized as an emergency and the children were not thought to be in imminent harm based on the referral. This was the first referral made to Washington DSHS regarding the Hart family. 

– On March 23, 2018 (same day), Washington DSHS tries to visit the Hart family home in Woodland. The family is not home; because the referral was not thought to be an emergency, law enforcement is not called, and DSHS’s next visits occur after the weekend, on March 26 and 27, 2018.

California

— On March 26, 2018, a tourist from Germany alerts authorities about an SUV at the bottom of a cliff off a remote stretch of Highway 1 in Mendocino County. About 2 hours later, deputies arrived and discovered the bodies of Sarah and Jennifer Hart and 3 of their 6 adopted children.

— On April 1, 2018, a spokesperson with the California Highway Patrol told KOIN 6 News that a preliminary investigation shows the crash, which happened off a cliff in Westport, California, on March 26, was an “intentional act,” and not the result of a traffic accident. The CHP spokesperson told KOIN 6 News that the vehicle, a 2003 GMC SUV, came to a stop 70-feet from the edge — approximately 5 feet off the highway — before it accelerated and plunged off the cliff.

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