Searchers kept looking Friday for three more children believed to have been in the vehicle when it went over a scenic coastal overlook and landed on rocks in the Pacific Ocean below. The remaining three children are missing and believed to be in the ocean. "I can fairly say that several of the questions that have been asked today [will] never be answered", he said during a news conference.
"We do have reason to believe, however, that the crash was intentional", Greg Baarts, acting assistant chief for the northern division of the California Highway Patrol said to local NBC affiliate KGW8-TV.
Officials originally asserted the deaths were an accident. The sheriff appealed to anyone who might have seen the family of eight to come forward.
'The search for the additional three children belonging to the family continues both at the scene, through water rescue and recovery, and other locations including routes of travel, ' the California Highway Patrol said.
The Hart family gained attention in 2014 after one of the children, Devonte, was photographed crying in the arms of a white police officer at a protest after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.
The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services said Child Protective Services opened an investigation into the Hart family on March 23 after the children were identified as potential victims of neglect and abuse. There was no sign of Hannah Hart, 16; Sierra Hart, 12; and Devonte Hart, 15.
Days before the wreck was discovered, neighbors called authorities to say one of the youngsters had been coming to their house nearly daily asking for something to eat and complaining that his parents were withholding food as punishment.
"One of the girls came to the door at 1:30 in the morning and said that she needed help and the parents were not treating her properly, and (she) wanted us to protect her", DeKalb said. She told The Oregonian/OregonLive that Devonte asked for things like tortillas and peanut butter and eventually was coming over three times a day.
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Dekalb said there were signs of trouble, prompting her to call child protective services.
"I nearly got the feeling it was more of, 'What are you waiting for, lady?"
A passerby happened to notice the vehicle but nobody reported seeing the crash, so authorities don't know when or how it happened. But by Saturday, the family's SUV was gone from the driveway, Bruce DeKalb said.
Sarah Hart was convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault of Abigail in 2011 in Minnesota. Three of their six adopted children, Markis, 19, Jeremiah, 14, and Abigail, 14, were also found dead in the vehicle. Currently, Devonte, Hannah, and Sierra are missing, but presumed dead.
Their model of Yukon was presumably equipped with a black box recorder that would show its speed and use of the brakes, said Marcus Mazza, an engineer and accident-reconstruction expert with Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based Robson Forensic.
Deputies searched the home for bills, receipts or other evidence that could reveal why the family left.
Police seized the devices from the Woodland, Washington, home of Jennifer and Sarah Hart, on Thursday, according to court documents related to the search warrant.
Family friend Max Ribner took issue with the notion the wreck was something other than a tragic accident. "Jen and Sarah were overjoyed to adopt these children, but it was not a smooth transition", the friend wrote, adding that the children had lost their faith in people and "were developmentally behind, socially behind, and unable to manage behaviors". "They were always on some grand adventure, and the kids were living this life that was kind of like this dream".