Coroner's inquest begins in the Hart family deaths nearly a year after Calif. crash

From Left: Hannah, Abigail, Sierra, Jeremiah, Jennifer, Devonte, Markis, and Sarah Hart at a Bernie Sanders rally in Vancouver on March 20, 2016 - Photo by Tristan Fortsch, KATU News

A two-day inquest into the deaths of the Hart family is set to begin Wednesday, just over a year after the family's SUV went off a cliff along the California coastline.

Mendocino County’s sheriff-coroner will present facts to a jury starting at 9 a.m. so it can determine the manner of death for each family member of the Hart family, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

Jennifer Hart along with her partner, Sarah, and five of their six adopted children were killed when their SUV crashed off a cliff in Mendocino County, Calif. on Monday, March 26, 2018.

One of the children, Devonte Hart, who was seen in a famous photo hugging a police officer three years ago at a Portland protest about the events in Ferguson, Missouri, is still considered missing.

Earlier in the month, their neighbor called Washington Child Protective Services with concerns the children were being abused and neglected.

A few days before the Harts disappeared, a CPS caseworker tried to contact the couple at their home, but no one answered.

The Hart's SUV was found at the bottom of a cliff, along with the bodies of Jennifer, Sarah, and three of the children: Markis, Jeremiah, and Abigail Hart.

In the next several weeks, investigators found Jennifer Hart had been drunk at the time of the crash. According to California Highway Patrol, she had a blood-alcohol content of .102. Toxicology reports show Sarah Hart and two of their children had "a significant amount" of Benadryl, an allergy medication, in their systems.

RELATED | Police: Jennifer Hart was drunk when she drove family off cliff

Originally an accident, investigators now call what happened a crime.

It was later discovered, the couple was being investigated by CPS for abuse and neglect in Minnesota and Texas years before they moved to Oregon and Washington.

By January 2019, the remains of Ceira and Hannah Hart had been found.

While Devonte Hart is still considered missing, police said they have reason to believe he was in the SUV with the rest of his family at the time of the crash.

The two-day inquest will be held at the Justice Center in Willits, California. It is open to the public, but seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

The inquest will also be live-streamed on the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page. The sheriff’s office said those interested in watching the live-stream should like its page.

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