MENDOCINO Co., 1/9/19 -- New DNA testing has positively identified the human remains that washed onshore in May as belonging to Hannah Louise-Holiday Hart, one of the members of the Hart family who perished when their adopted mother, Jennifer Hart, drove their van off a cliff into the ocean, near Westport in March of last year, in an apparent murder-suicide.
New DNA samples from Hannah Hart's biological mother allowed the laboratory at the California Department of Justice to make the positive identification just days ago.
With this latest identification, all members of the family are accounted for except Devonte Hart, who is presumed to have also perished in the crash.
The Harts were a family of eight, two mothers and six adopted children, some of whom were biological siblings: Jennifer Hart, 38 , Sarah Hart, 38, Markis Hart, 19, Jeremiah Hart, 14, Abigail Hart, 14, Devonte Hart, 15, Hannah Hart, 16, and Ciera Hart, 12.
On March 25, 2018, in and apparently suicide and murder, Jennifer Hart stopped the van fill with the family on a turnout on Hwy. 1, near Westport, then proceeded to speed off a cliff, plunging the family into the rocky ocean below. Jennifer Hart's blood work showed she was intoxicated, and the children appeared to have a sedative in their blood. The parents had exhibited a pattern of child abuse.
Five of the family members were found initially, and after much searching remains of Ciera were also found and identified. A foot that washed onshore in a shoe had been believed to belong to Hannah, but a positive identification had not been made till this week.
Here are more details from the MCSO press release:
DATE: "January 9, 2019"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Coroner's Investigation / Continuing Search and Rescue Efforts
California State Highway 1 at Mendocino County Road 430 in Westport, CA
43000 Block of North Highway 1 (AKA Juan Creek) in Westport, CA
Date of Incident:
Hannah Louise-Holiday Hart (AKA Scheurich) 16 year-old female from Woodland Washington
Lieutenant Shannon Bareny
On 03-26-2018 around 4:15 PM the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office responded to the area of Juan Creek and North Highway 1, just north of the Town of Westport in Mendocino County to the report of a traffic collision resulting in five fatalities.
These persons were later identified as all belonging to the Hart Family; Jennifer Hart (38 years of age), Sarah Hart (38 years of age), Markis Hart (19 years of age), Jeremiah Hart (14 years of age), and Abigail Hart (14 years of age).
As a result of this investigation three other family members were listed as missing persons; Devonte Hart (15 years of age), Hannah Hart (16 years of age) and Ciera Hart (12 years of age).
An extensive investigation was initiated into the cause of the collision, the location of the three missing persons, and the cause and manner of death of the decedents. This investigation has been an ongoing effort with the cooperating investigatory agencies being; The Clark County Washington Sheriff's Office, the California Highway Patrol, and the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.
On 04-07-2018 around 1:56 PM human remains were again discovered on the beach just north of where the original collision occurred.
On 04-17-2018 the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office was notified the decedent had been identified. The remains were identified via DNA testing by the California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services Laboratory (DOJ LAB). These remains were positively identified as belonging to Ciera Rose Hart (12 years of age).
On 05-09-2018 the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office again responded to this area after a citizen reported partial human remains found on the beach.
These remains consisted of a partial foot located inside a shoe and attached to a pair of jeans. The jeans and shoe appeared consistent with those that would fit a smaller sized person.
The remains were forwarded the to the DOJ LAB to see if a DNA profile could be determined and if so, could the remains be identified as one of the two remaining missing children, Devonte Hart or Hannah Hart.
On 06-08-2018 the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office was notified the results of the testing by the DOJ LAB were inconclusive and the remains could not be positively identified.
The DOJ LAB personnel requested additional samples from known family members so additional testing could be conducted.
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.
She was fully cooperative in this investigation and with the assistance of Detectives of the Mobile Alabama Police Department, a DNA sample was obtained from this person and forwarded to the DOJ LAB for comparison testing.
On 01-08-2019 the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received word from the DOJ LAB that the additional DNA test results showed a positive identification of the partial remains found on 05-09-2018 as belonging to Hannah Hart.
Devonte Hart is still listed as a missing person with the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.
It is believed, the most likely scenario is that he too perished in this incident but the case remains open and active.
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.
Captain Gregory L. Van Patten #1184