Inquest finds family’s cliff crash was murder-suicide

Details emerge after Hart family murder-suicide
Mendocino County Sheriff's Office via CNN
The Hart family appears in this undated photo from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

A coroner’s jury Thursday unanimously ruled that Jennifer and Sarah Hart intended for their six adopted children to die along with them when Jennifer Hart drove her family off a California cliff in 2018.

“The death certificates for Jennifer and Sarah Hart will be listed as suicide,” Mendocino County Sheriff-Coroner Thomas Allman told reporters Thursday. “The six children who perished on that day, their deaths, certainly as a jury ruled, was determined to be at the hands of another, other than by accident, and their death certificates will list homicide as the manner of death.”

The decision capped the coroner’s inquest, a public hearing at the end of which a 14-person jury ruled on the official manner of the family’s death.

Over the two days of the inquest, multiple law enforcement officers, a search-and-rescue leader and a forensic pathologist testified about their involvement in the recovery and investigation into the crash and deaths.

According to the Mendocino County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office, jurors had the option to find each individual’s manner of death as “Accident,” “Suicide,” “Natural Causes,” or “At the hands of another person, other than by accident.”

“Over the last two days the known facts have been provided to a jury. … The jury had the ultimate responsibility of determining the manner of death for each of the eight people who died on that fateful day,” Allman had said earlier at the press conference. “As the coroner of this county I will accept the jury’s decision and certainly rule the manner of death as was decided.”