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'A Thread of Deceit: The Hart Family Tragedy': The real story behind the murder-suicides that shook America

The picture-perfect Hart family was known for being outgoing, but tragically ended their lives when they drove their car off a cliff. What led to such a tragic end?
The Hart family (Associated Press)
The Hart family (Associated Press)

In 2002, Jennifer Hart and Sarah Hart met in university and fell in love. They came out in 2004 prompting their move to Minnesota. During those years, many states did not allow same-sex marriage and the couple were ostracized.

They adopted six kids during their time as a family. The couple gained a lot of media coverage when they drove off the cliff in Nothern California with their six kids in 2018. The jury declared it as a murder-suicide, leaving their friends and family in a state of disbelief.

The investigation, allegations and their deaths led Chris Roger and Rachel Morgan to produce an interrogative documentary 'A Thread of Deceit: The Hart Family Tragedy', with exclusive interviews from their friends and family unveiling the bitter truth of their 'perfect family'.

In 2006, the couple adopted their first child, marking the beginning of their motherhood. Since then they had adopted five more kids. Abigail, Hannah Jean, Markis Hart, Ciera Maija, Devonte Jordan and Jeremiah Hart.

Their children were actively seen on Jennifer's Facebook posts and the Harts took them to concerts, music festivals, vacations and more. The Hart couple was first accused of child abuse in 2008 when Abigail's teacher noticed bruises on her arm. When asked the child said she was hit with a belt by Jennifer.

In 2010, Sarah pleaded guilty for domestic assault and malicious punishment and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Following that, the children were removed from school and homeschooled by Jennifer.

In 2013, when the couple and their kids moved to Oregon from Minnesota, Minnesota authorities warned authorities in Oregon regarding the child abuse allegations.

An investigation took place regarding the welfare of the children, it also included individual interviews with the children and the couple and interviews of the people who knew the family. 

According to the report filed by the caseworker, Jennifer was "adamant that many of the family's issues stemmed from others, not understanding [their] alternative lifestyle."

While the state ultimately closed the case, the caseworker had warned, "The problem is these women look normal." An anonymous person, who called the children "trained robots," also said they seemed "scared to death of Jen".

A former friend of theirs also called Child Protective Services after the Hart family had stayed with them, claiming Jen handled the children "like a regimented boot camp," adding that she would often get angry if they laughed too loudly. 

Following the investigation, in 2017, the Hart family moved to Washington trying to maintain a private life. But there, another report was filed against the couple by their neighbor, Bruce and Dana DeKalb.

According to E-News, Bruce DeKalb informed, "One of the girls came to the door at 1.30 in the morning and said that she needed help and the parents were not treating her properly, and (she) wanted us to protect her."

His wife Dana recalled the girl's plea, "You gotta help. Please protect me! Don't make me go back! They're racists, and they abuse us!" Despite that, Jennifer convinced the couple that everything was fine. However, as days went by, the kids kept coming to them and they decided to report to CPS.

This led to another Child Protection Service investigation in 2018. Before the crash, they tried to contact the Harts but did not receive any response. On March 16, 2018, the family had driven off the cliff, in a murder-suicide.

Authorities in California had announced earlier that Jen had been intoxicated when she had been driving the SUV and that three of the Hart children had tested positive for the active ingredient found in Benadryl. Sarah was also confirmed to have had the presence of the drug in her system.

The bodies of Jennifer and Sarah, both 38, along with their children, 19-year-old Markis, 14-year-old Abigail, 14-year-old Jeremiah and 12-year-old Sierra were found near the crash site. The bodies of 16-year-old Hannah and 15-year-old Devonte are still unaccounted for and are assumed dead by authorities. 

The tragic incident brought out the secrets behind the perfect family portrayal, the true face of the Hart couple, abusing their children and still acting perfectly happy in front of others, showing that you can never really know what goes on behind closed doors.

The documentary 'A Thread of Deceit: The Hart Family Tragedy' is set to release on April 7.