SAN FRANCISCO – Jen and Sarah Hart and three of their adoptive children died as a result of a fractured neck after their SUVs dipped from a cliff in northern California, said a forensic doctor at the time. Wednesday's inquest to help authorities classify deaths.
A Willits jury will decide whether the deaths of the two women and their six children in March 2018 were accidental or a suicide-murder.
The accident occurred just days after the opening of an investigation by the Washington State authorities, following allegations that the children aged 12 to 19 years would have been neglected.
The women 's bodies were inside the sport utility vehicle when it was discovered, but one of them fell when the vehicle was towed along the cliff at. Mendocino County, said Deputy Sheriff Robert Julian during a testimony broadcast online.
Julian said that he had been able to identify Sarah Hart through the Minnesota driving license discovered near the car.
"I could not identify Jennifer Hart because of her fall," Julian said. She was later identified by the authorities.
Legographer Greg Pizarro, a forensic doctor, testified that Jennifer Hart was intoxicated when she drove her large family off the cliff, claiming that an autopsy had revealed that She had a blood alcohol level of 0.102. Californian drivers are considered drunk with a level of 0.08 or higher. She was also the only one wearing a seatbelt, he said.
Sarah Hart and the children had large amounts of diphenhydramine in their system, a drug that can cause drowsiness, officials said.
The bodies of brothers and sisters Markis, Jeremiah and Abigail were found on the same day near the car. A few weeks later, Ciera Hart's body was removed from the Pacific Ocean.
Pizarro said that Ciera's body was too decomposed and that he could not determine the cause of death.
"You can only assume that his manner of dying was similar to that of all other children," said Pizarro.
Human remains found in a shoe were compared to Hannah Hart using DNA tests. The remains of Devonte Hart, aged 15, have not been found.
A neighbor of the Harts of Woodland, Washington State, had lodged a complaint with the state, saying that the children would apparently be deprived of food as a punishment. On March 23, no one answered the question. Social workers checked the report and went to the family's home near Portland, Oregon.
Three days later, their SUV was found partially submerged in the ocean, under a steep cliff more than 250 km north of San Francisco.
Sarah Hart pleaded guilty in 2011 to a charge of domestic violence in Minnesota for what she had described as spanking one of her children. Oregon Child Protection officials also investigated the couple in 2013, but dismissed the case without any action.