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MEDIA ADVISORY/NEWS RELEASE


DATE:  "April 9, 2018"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Incident Number: 
2018-8630


Crime/Incident:
Coroner's Investigation, Continuing Search and Rescue Efforts
 


Location: 
California State Highway 1 at Mendocino County Road 430, Westport CA 95448


Date of Incident: 
03-26-2018


Time: 
3:38 PM


Victim(s): 
Confirmed Deceased:

Jennifer Jean Hart, 38 years of age, Woodland, Washington
Sarah Margaret Hart, 38 years of age, Woodland Washington
Markis Hart, 19 years of age, Woodland Washington
Jeremiah Hart, 14 years of age, Woodland Washington
Abigail Hart, 14 years of age, Woodland Washington

Missing Persons:

Devonte Hart, 15 years of age, Woodland Washington
Hannah Hart, 16 years of age, Woodland Washington
Sierra Hart, 15 years of age, Woodland Washington
 


Suspect(s): 
N/A


Written By: 
Captain Gregory L. Van Patten #1184


Synopsis: 
ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE:

On 3/26/2018 around 4:16 PM the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office was dispatched the area of Highway 1 at County Road 430, also called Juan Creek, in Westport regarding a traffic accident involving multiple fatalities.  The incident had been reported to fire officials and the California Highway Patrol around 3:38 PM, after a passerby used a pullout along the road and observed the vehicle off the embankment, upside down on the rocky shoreline.

While the Sheriff's Office was enroute to the call it was learned there were possibly two adult females, two juvenile males, and one juvenile female deceased at the scene. The Sheriff's Office initiated a Coroner's Investigation.  First responders continued recovery efforts until well after midnight.  On 3/27/2018 around 0800 hours the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office confirmed the identity of the two adult females as Jennifer and Sarah Hart, a married couple who had previously resided in West Linn Oregon.  It was later learned the decedent's had 6 adopted children. 

After learning of three additional children who were unaccounted for, the Sheriff's Office, the California Highway Patrol, and the United States Coast Guard out of Fort Bragg CA immediately initiated a second search and rescue effort in the Ocean waters where the accident occurred.  The California Highway patrol launched a fixed wing airplane and a helicopter, the Coast Guard launched a rescue boat in the area, while the Mendocino County Sheriff's Search and Rescue responded to search the beach areas along the Highway. 

One of the unaccounted for children was Devonte Hart, who drew wide media attention in 2014, after having been photographed hugging a Portland Oregon Police Sergeant during a demonstration related to the events related to the unrest in Ferguson Missouri.  The Sheriff's Office reached out to the Portland Oregon Police Department and learned the family, due to intense media coverage, may have moved from Oregon.  The family was tracked to a Woodland Washington address where, with assistance from the Clark County Washington Sheriff's Office, the family home was checked and the three outstanding children were not located.  The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office was advised by the Clark County Sheriff's Office it appeared the family may have left for a temporary trip as there were many family belongings still in the home as well as a pet and some chickens.

On 3/28/2018 the three younger decedent's have been positively identified with the help of family members.  They are Markis Hart 19 years of age, Jeremiah Hart 14 years of age, and Abigail Hart 14 years of age.  The three children who are still missing are Devonte Hart 15 years of age, Hannah Hart 16 years of age, and Sierra Hart 12 years of age.  At this time it is unknown if the missing children accompanied their parents on the trip to Mendocino County or if they might be staying with friends.  

On 3/28/2018 the Alameda County Sheriff's Office responded to assist the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office by sending 6 Deputies trained in the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), used for search and rescue incidents, to assist with combing the coastline in an effort to locate the three missing children.  So far the ocean conditions have not allowed the use of rescue/recovery divers in the search efforts.  The Mendocino County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team has diver's on standby if the ocean conditions improve.

The cause of this accident is being investigated by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Ukiah Office.  All media inquiries related to the accident are being directed to the CHP at 707-467-4420.  The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is conducting the Coroner's Investigation, on going search and rescue operations, and the investigation related to the three children who are unaccounted for.  Questions related to this can be directed to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office at 707-463-4086.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office would like to thank the California Highway Patrol, the Portland Oregon Police Department, the Clark County Washington Sheriff's Office, the Grant County South Dakota Sheriff's Office, the Huron City South Dakota Police Department, the Cowlitz County Department of Social Services, and the Alameda County California Sheriff's Office for their assistance in this case.

UPDATED PRESS RELEASE 04-01-2018:

Due to increased media attention about this investigation a telephonic press conference will be facilitated by the California Highway Patrol on 04-01-2018 at 7:15 PM.

This press conference is restricted to members of the media and the following is the conference call information:

1-877-953-2563
passcode 323419

UPDATED PRESS RELEASE 04-03-2018:

On 04-02-2018 the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received information that Jennifer Hart may have been seen on 03-25-2018 at a business in Fort Bragg, California. 

Sheriff's Office investigators obtained video footage from the business and noted it was of a poor quality resolution.  The footage was provided to CHP investigators who are working with FBI agents in an attempt to enhance the viewing quality.

As of 04-03-2018 the search for the missing children (Hannah Hart, DeVonte Hart and Sierra Hart) is still ongoing.

As of this date it is still unclear if the missing children were inside the vehicle during the incident. 

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is focused on search efforts as if they were inside the vehicle while the California Highway Patrol is focused on search efforts as if they were not inside the vehicle.  At this point there in no obvious information to suggest either possibility.

To date there has been ongoing searches including by aircraft, by boat and by land in the area of the crash site and the shoreline in Mendocino County and Sonoma County.  Search & Rescue divers have been unable to dive in the area of the crash site due to unsafe ocean conditions.

A large scale Search & Rescue operation with approximately 71 searchers is schedule to begin on 04-04-2018 at 8:00 AM during low tide conditions with the base of the operation being located at the MacKerricher State Park.

The search area will focus from the Noyo Harbor to the MacKerricher State Park based upon ocean current and drift pattern analysis conducted by the US Coast Guard.  A further search will be conducted from the crash site with focus to the south of that location.  This search is anticipated to include aircraft, boat and land searchers. 

The following public safety agencies will be participating in the 04-04-2018 search operation:

Contra Costa County Search & Rescue
Bay Area Mountain Rescue
San Mateo County Search & Rescue
Marin County Search & Rescue
Sonoma County Search & Rescue
Lake County Search & Rescue
CAL ESAR
Mendocino County Search & Rescue

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office would also like to thank the following public safety agencies that have assisted thus far in the missing persons and coroner's investigation to date:

Westport Fire Department
Fort Bragg Fire Department
Cal Fire
California Highway Patrol
Portland Oregon Police Department
Clark County Washington Sheriff's Office
Grant County South Dakota Sheriff's Office
Huron City South Dakota Police Department
Cowlitz County Department of Social Services
Alameda County California Sheriff's Office

Due to the massive media attention related to this incident the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office has been receiving an overwhelming amount of telephone calls and emails.  The massive number of inquires for information is hampering the routine daily operations of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

In an attempt to resolve this situation the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office will be sending out a press release each day at 9:00 AM highlighting information from the previous day's investigative work.

All telephone call and email inquires will be referred directly to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office press release page on our website.

Anyone wishing to subscribe to the Sheriff's Office automated press release notification system can do so by visiting www.mendocinosheriff.com and by accessing the press release page on the website.

UPDATED PRESS RELEASE 04-04-2018:

Ongoing search efforts continued on 04-03-2018 which consisted of shoreline searches of the Mendocino County coastline by Mendocino County Sheriff's Office patrol deputies and California Highway Patrol officers.

These searches were unsuccessful in locating the missing children (Hannah Hart, DeVonte Hart and Sierra Hart).

A large scale Search & Rescue operation with approximately 71 searchers is currently underway with the command post being located at the MacKerricher State Park.  Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Shannon Barney is the incident commander for this search operation.

The search area will focus from the Noyo Harbor to the MacKerricher State Park based upon ocean current and drift pattern analysis conducted by the US Coast Guard.  A further search will be conducted from the crash site with focus to the south of that location.  This search is anticipated to include aircraft, boat and land searchers. 

The following public safety agencies expected to participate in the search operation consist of the following:

Contra Costa County Search & Rescue
Bay Area Mountain Rescue
San Mateo County Search & Rescue
Marin County Search & Rescue
Sonoma County Search & Rescue
Lake County Search & Rescue
CAL ESAR
Mendocino County Search & Rescue

On 04-03-2018 the California Highway Patrol released an updated press release which is attached to this press release.

Ongoing updates will also be posted on the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office facebook page as information becomes available (https://www.facebook.com/MendocinoSheriff).

Due to the massive media attention related to this incident the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office has been receiving an overwhelming amount of telephone calls and emails.  The massive number of inquires for information is hampering the routine daily operations of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

In an attempt to resolve this situation the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office will be sending out an electronic written press release each day at 9:00 AM highlighting information from the previous day's investigative work.

All telephone call and email inquires will be referred directly to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office press release page on our website.

Anyone wishing to subscribe to the Sheriff's Office automated press release notification system can do so by visiting www.mendocinosheriff.com and by accessing the press release page on the website.

UPDATED PRESS RELEASE 04-05-2018:

Ongoing search efforts continued on 04-04-2018 which consisted of shoreline and aerial searches of the Mendocino County coastline.

These searches were unsuccessful in locating the missing children (Hannah Hart, DeVonte Hart and Sierra Hart) or physical evidence associated with this investigation.

The Search & Rescue operation consisted of 74 volunteer searchers and 10 law enforcement personnel.

The search area focused from the Noyo Harbor to the MacKerricher State Park based upon ocean current and drift pattern analysis conducted by the US Coast Guard.  A further search was conducted at the crash site and also focused to the south of that location.

The following public safety agencies participated in the search operation:

Contra Costa County Search & Rescue
Bay Area Mountain Rescue
San Mateo County Search & Rescue
Marin County Search & Rescue
Sonoma County Search & Rescue
Lake County Search & Rescue
CAL ESAR
Mendocino County Search & Rescue
California Highway Patrol

Further large scale Search & Rescue operations are being postponed due to a pending weather event expected to bring heavy rain and winds to the Mendocino County coast for the next few days.

Searches of the Mendocino County coastline will continue with on-duty patrol deputies as calls for service allow until future Search & Rescue operations can be safely conducted after the conclusion of the weather event.

Information released on 04-04-2018 by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office incorrectly stated that Jennifer Hart and Sarah Hart were wearing a seat-belt during the incident.

Investigators from the California Highway Patrol MAIT team (Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team) determined Jennifer Hart and Sarah Hart were not wearing seat-belts during the incident.  This determination was made during the MAIT team's inspection of the vehicle.

Ongoing updates/photos will also be posted on the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office facebook page as information becomes available (https://www.facebook.com/MendocinoSheriff).

Due to the massive media attention related to this incident the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office has been receiving an overwhelming amount of telephone calls and emails.  The massive number of inquires for information is hampering the routine daily operations of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

In an attempt to resolve this situation the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office will be sending out an electronic written press release each day at 9:00 AM highlighting information from the previous day's investigative work.

All telephone call and email inquires will be referred directly to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office press release page on our website.

Anyone wishing to subscribe to the Sheriff's Office automated press release notification system can do so by visiting www.mendocinosheriff.com and by accessing the press release page on the website.

UPDATED PRESS RELEASE 04-06-2018:

Ongoing search efforts continued on 04-05-2018 which consisted of shoreline searches of the Mendocino County coastline by patrol deputies as calls for service allowed.

These searches were unsuccessful in locating the missing children (Hannah Hart, DeVonte Hart and Sierra Hart) or physical evidence associated with this investigation.

Further large scale Search & Rescue operations are being postponed due to an active weather event bringing heavy rain and winds to the Mendocino County coast.

Searches of the Mendocino County coastline will continue with on-duty patrol deputies as calls for service allow until future Search & Rescue operations can be safely conducted after the conclusion of the weather event.

Ongoing updates/photos will also be posted on the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office facebook page as information becomes available (https://www.facebook.com/MendocinoSheriff).

Due to the massive media attention related to this incident the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office has been receiving an overwhelming amount of telephone calls and emails.  The massive number of inquires for information is hampering the routine daily operations of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

In an attempt to resolve this situation the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office will be sending out an electronic written press release each day at 9:00 AM highlighting information from the previous day's investigative work.

All telephone call and email inquires will be referred directly to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office press release page on our website.

Anyone wishing to subscribe to the Sheriff's Office automated press release notification system can do so by visiting www.mendocinosheriff.com and by accessing the press release page on the website.

UPDATED PRESS RELEASE 04-07-2018:

Ongoing search efforts continued on 04-06-2018 which consisted of shoreline searches of the Mendocino County coastline by patrol deputies as calls for service allowed.

These searches were unsuccessful in locating the missing children (Hannah Hart, DeVonte Hart and Sierra Hart) or physical evidence associated with this investigation.

Further large scale Search & Rescue operations are being postponed due to a weather event which brought heavy rain and winds to the Mendocino County coast over the last few days.

Searches of the Mendocino County coastline will continue with on-duty patrol deputies as calls for service allow until future Search & Rescue operations can be safely conducted after the conclusion of the weather event.

Ongoing updates/photos will also be posted on the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office facebook page as information becomes available (https://www.facebook.com/MendocinoSheriff).

Previous press releases from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office incorrectly identified Sierra Hart as being 12 years-old when her actual age at the time of her disappearance was 15 years-old.  The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office apologizes for the inaccurate information.  

Due to the massive media attention related to this incident the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office has been receiving an overwhelming amount of telephone calls and emails.  The massive number of inquires for information is hampering the routine daily operations of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

In an attempt to resolve this situation the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office will be sending out an electronic written press release each day at 9:00 AM highlighting information from the previous day's investigative work.

All telephone call and email inquires will be referred directly to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office press release page on our website.

Anyone wishing to subscribe to the Sheriff's Office automated press release notification system can do so by visiting www.mendocinosheriff.com and by accessing the press release page on the website.

UPDATED PRESS RELEASE 04-07-2018:

On April 7, 2018 around 1:58 PM the California Highway Patrol (CHP) received a call regarding a found body in the surf of the Pacific Ocean at Juan Creek and Highway 1 in Westport CA. 

This area is in the immediate vicinity of the recent Hart Family crash. The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office responded to the location to conduct a Coroner's Investigation and learned that a couple, vacationing along the coast, observed a possible body floating in the surf near Juan Creek. 

The Westport Fire Department had patrolled the area an hour prior but did not see anything.  The body was pulled from the surf, onto the beach, by a third bystander where it was later recovered by Westport Fire.

The recovered body appears to be that of an African American Female but the age and a positive identity could not be determined. 

An autopsy will be conducted on Tuesday and the cause of death is unknown.  

The Sheriff's Office is investigating the possibility that the body may be one of the two missing Hart girls but identification will most likely be done through DNA analysis, a process that can take several weeks. 

It is not uncommon after a significant storm, such as the one passing through the north state currently, to bring items to the surface or wash onto the beach. 

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is monitoring the ocean conditions to see when further searches might be safely conducted.  This evaluation includes the use of divers if conditions permit. There were no other signs of the other missing Hart children.

UPDATED PRESS RELEASE 04-09-2018:

On 04-09-2018 at 11:00 AM approximately 10 searchers from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Search & Rescue team will be conducting a search of the vicinity of the crash site in an attempt to locate any of the missing children and physical evidence.

The California Highway Patrol will be assisting in the search by providing a helicopter for aerial search purposes.

A low tide is expected for this time of the day and should provide the best conditions for searchers.

Ongoing updates/photos will also be posted on the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office facebook page as information becomes available (https://www.facebook.com/MendocinoSheriff).

Due to the massive media attention related to this incident the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office has been receiving an overwhelming amount of telephone calls and emails.  The massive number of inquires for information is hampering the routine daily operations of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

In an attempt to resolve this situation the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office will be sending out an electronic written press release each day at 9:00 AM highlighting information from the previous day's investigative work.

All telephone call and email inquires will be referred directly to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office press release page on our website.

Anyone wishing to subscribe to the Sheriff's Office automated press release notification system can do so by visiting www.mendocinosheriff.com and by accessing the press release page on the website.


Approved by: 
Captain Gregory L. Van Patten #1184
Mendocino County Sheriff's Office
Tom Allman, Sheriff-Coroner
951 Low Gap Rd, Ukiah, CA 95482
(707) 463-4411, Sheriff@MendocinoSheriff.com
Copyright © 2018 Mendocino County Sheriff's Office - Press Releases, All rights reserved.


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