Devonte Hart, the 12-year-old boy who embraced a cop in a viral photo, was reported missing after a car carrying his family members plunged off a cliff in Northern California.
Devonte was photographed crying and hugging a police officer during "Black Lives Matter" protests of the police shooting death of Michael Brown in 2014.
Five family members of #DevonteHart, the 12-year-old photographed in a tender embrace with a Portland policeman in 2014, have been identified as those killed in a crash off the coast of Northern California.#rigtontv #blacklivesmatter #blacktwitter #RIPdevontehart pic.twitter.com/8OuCpdjM8D
— RightOnTV (@RightOnTV) March 29, 2018
Investigators believe eight members of the Hart family were in an SUV that plunged off a cliff near Mendocino and landed upside down on the rocky shore below.
The California Highway Patrol recovered the bodies of two women, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 39, and three of their six adopted special needs children -- 19-year-old Markis Hart, 14-year-old Jeremiah Hart and 14-year-old Abigail Hart.
Rescue teams continue to search for Devonte, 15, Hannah Hart, 16, and 12-year-old Sierra Hart.
Officials say the crash site was "confusing," but they don't have evidence that the crash was an "intentional act".
“It was a very confusing scene because there were no skid marks, there were no brake marks," said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman. "There was no indication of why this vehicle traversed approximately over 75 feet of a dirt pullout and went into the Pacific Ocean.”
Allman said Jennifer Hart was behind the wheel of the SUV when it pulled into a dirt turnaround area and continued off the cliff. Drugs and alcohol are not believed to be a factor in the crash.
The wrecked SUV was discovered on Monday around 4:30 p.m. It is unclear when the crash occurred.
According to KGW8 News, neighbors notified the Washington State Child Protective Services on Friday, March 23, about "potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect" in the Hart home in Woodland, Washington.
Neighbors said the children weren't being fed.
A neighbor told KGW8 News that Devonte had a daily habit of sneaking next door to ask for food.
Devonte told the neighbor that his mothers didn't feed him, withheld food from his siblings as punishment, and didn't allow the children to go outside.
The neighbor said Devonte begged for food, "often multiple times a day". The neighbor finally had enough and called CPS.
CPS officials visited the Hart home on Friday, March 23, but the women refused to open the door. Hours later, neighbors said the family took off in the SUV.
CPS officials attempted to visit the family again on March 26 and 27, but no one was at home.
Authorities found evidence that the family had left the home in a hurry. Animals and personal belongings were still at the home.
CPS officials in other states reported a similar history of child abuse, according to KGW8 News.
Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to charges of domestic assault in 2011, after Minnesota police said she hit one of her daughters.
A teacher called police after seeing bruises on the 6-year-old's stomach and back. The girl later told police and a social worker that her mother hit her, leaving bruises.
Sarah admitted she began "spanking" the child to control her behavior.
A detective wrote in a report that “the defendant admitted she let her anger get out of control.”
She was sentenced to 90 days in jail but she didn't serve any time if she complied with the terms of her probation, KWG8 reports.
Investigators with the California Highway Patrol have launched a thorough investigation into the cause of the crash. Investigators say they are aware of the calls to child protective services, and "they’re a long ways from coming up with a determination yet."