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Docs: Hart child jumped out of window, told neighbors her moms were racist and abusive

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Updated April 12, 2018 09:45 PM EDT

by Bob Heye and Mila Mimica, KATU News

WOODLAND, Wash. — An intake report from Washington State's Department of Social and Health Services paints a haunting image of the days leading up to the deadly crash involving the Hart family.

Jennifer and Sarah Hart, along with three of their adopted children, were found dead following a crash off a cliff in California late last month.

Their three other children, who were also adopted, are believed to have been in the car as well. Authorities have said it appears as though Sarah and Jennifer drove off the cliff on purpose, killing their entire family.

Prior to the deadly crash, the Hart family was living in rural Woodland, Wash. Before that, they had spent time in West Linn, Ore. as well as Douglas County, Minnesota.

New CPS reports from Washington State

The documents, which were filed March 23 in Washington State, include neighbors' reports of one of the kids asking for food multiple times a day and another jumping from a window and seeking help.

According to the record, 15-year-old Devonte asked a neighbor for food 2 to 3 times a day during a 1-week period in mid-March: "Davante [sic] asked for tortillas or bread and begged not to tell his mom."

When the neighbor asked Devonte if his parents were feeding him and his siblings, Devonte responded, "they punish him by taking away food for one meal or entire days... his parents were mean/and not feeding him meals for days at a time and he doesn't like his parents."

Devonte then asked the neighbor to leave food in a box by a fence where his mom wouldn't be able to see it. This happened several times.

"He mentioned they go long periods of time without food and they are just hungry," the document says.

The neighbor told CPS Devonte looked "distorted" and that his frame was "tinier than his head." When the neighbors spoke with Devonte about calling police, he begged them not to, and expressed worry he and his siblings would be separated.

And six months earlier, 16-year-old Hannah Hart jumped from a second story window around 1:30 a.m. and bolted into the neighbor's home, saying "her moms were racist and were abusing her." She also said she was being whipped with belts.

The next morning, Sarah, Jennifer and the entire family came over to the neighbor's home to say they were homeschooling their kids because one of them was being bullied.

Hannah was missing two teeth, and her moms said she had fallen and knocked them out, refusing to get new teeth.

The neighbors told CPS they initially had no idea six children lived at the home, and they rarely saw them outside, aside from observing Devonte "doing work outside at night."

A case worker attempted to visit the Hart family home on the morning of Friday, March 23. Though there was a car outside, no one answered the door or appeared to be home, so the case worker left her card.

When she came back the following Monday, March 26 the card was gone and neighbors reported the entire family left in a hurry last Friday.

Previous allegations of abuse, neglect

KATU News has reported on several other incidents involving Jennifer and Sarah Hart.

In 2013, a family friend said she "witnessed what I felt to be controlling emotional abuse and cruel punishment" toward the six children. Alexandra Argyropoulos said she was told the children had been interviewed by officials but there was nothing more the Oregon Department of Human Services could do because there was not enough evidence to make a case.

After reporting her concerns in 2013, Argyropoulos said, she was told the Hart children had been interviewed by officials from the Oregon department; it was apparent that each child had been coached by their mothers on what to say; and nothing more could be done.

Court records show Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge in Douglas County, Minnesota in 2011. Her plea also led to the dismissal of a charge of malicious punishment of a child. One of her daughters, who was 6 years old at the time, showed her teacher she had bruising all over her back and torso.

And in 2008, a report obtained by KATU News says one of their daughters claimed Jennifer beat her using a belt. When confronted by officials, Jennifer and Sarah Hart said the little girl was misbehaving, and added she likely got her bruises from falling down the stairs.

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