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Family SUV Plunges Off Cliff, Police Believe Eight Are Dead As Troubling Details Emerge

Devonte Hart, an African American boy who made national headlines when a photograph of him embracing a white police officer during a 2014 demonstration went viral is believed to be dead after his family’s SUV plunged off a 100-foot-cliff in California and landed in the Pacific Ocean.

Family Plunges Off of Cliff
The Hart family of Woodland, Washington at a Bernie Sanders rally in Vancouver, Washington on March 20, 2016. Mendocino County Sheriff's Office

The bodies of Devonte’s moms Jennifer and Sarah Hart and his siblings Markis, 19, Jeremiah, 14, and Abigail, 14, were discovered on Monday, March 26. As of Wednesday, Devonte, 15, and his sisters Hannah, 16, and Sierra, 12, were still missing and the children are feared dead, law officials told The New York Times in a story published on Thursday, March 29. 

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“We have every indication to believe that all six children were in there. However only three bodies have been recovered,” Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman told the paper. “We have no evidence and no reason to believe this was an intentional act. Certainly people are wondering what caused this.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, Sheriff Allman said many questions remain about the tragedy. The vehicle had traveled 75 to 100 feet on dirt before driving into the ocean. And there weren’t any skid or brake marks. 

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While the cause of the crash remains under investigation, new details are emerging. Neighbors of the Washington-based family called Child Protective Services to visit their Woodland home on March 23, according to local news outlet KGW8. CPS confirmed to KGW8 that they opened an investigation that day, which identified the Hart siblings as “potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect.” When CPS tried to reach the Harts on Friday, Monday and Tuesday, they were unable to do so.

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One neighbor told KWG8 that Devonte came over every day asking for food, and would sometimes  stop by multiple times. The neighbor claims that Devonte said his mothers didn’t feed them and withheld food as punishment. He also claimed, according to the neighbor, they were not allowed to go outside.

 Sarah pleaded guilty to charges of domestic assault in 2011, after police said she hit on her daughters, KGW8 reported.

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