The biological aunt of three of the siblings who police say were in the car when their lesbian mothers drove it off a cliff last month tried to keep them in her custody before they were adopted.
The aunt of Jeremiah, Devonte and Sierra Hart, had been looking after them until they were taken into the care of authorities and then adopted by Jennifer and Sarah Hart in 2009.
She took them in when they were removed from their parents’ care over drug abuse. The aunt, who asked not to be named, had them taken off of her when she allowed their mother to look after them.
On March 26, 15-year-old Jeremiah’s body was found in the water in Mendocino, California, along with those of his adoptive mothers and two of his adopted siblings, Markis and Abigail.
Devonte, 15, Sierra, 14, and their other adopted sibling Hannah have still not been found but authorities believe all six children were in the SUV when the women drove it over the edge of a cliff.
Shonda Jones, the lawyer for three of the children’s aunt, said this week that she has been left devastated by the tragedy.
‘She’s having a very hard time, in my opinion, accepting what has happened. I think she hears it, but she doesn’t want to believe it,’ Jones told ABC 13.
The aunt still lives in Houston, Texas, where the children are from. When they were adopted in 2009, the Harts lived in Minnesota.
They later moved to Oregon and then to Washington in 2014.
Since the crash last month, it has been revealed that child protective services were looking into reports that the pair were abusing their six adopted children by not feeding them.
Neighbors in Washington said that in the weeks before the tragedy, Devonte would come to their home begging for food and pleading with them not to send him back home.
Sarah Hart had been accused of assaulting one of the children years earlier but the charge was lessened as part of a plea deal.
Jones said the aunt had not given up hope on trying to get the children back and that she was determined to keep trying.
‘When you try to work hard to keep families together and something this tragic occurs, it’s very disturbing. I cannot understand why…It was like something in my soul that was telling me to hold on.
‘When I saw the names, and I had spoken to my client the day before, she remembered Sierra, and I said, “Oh my God!”
‘When I read the article, I said, “That’s them.”‘
On March 24, two days before their bodies were found, a Child Protective Services associate went to the family’s home in Washington to investigate after receiving reports from the neighbors that the children were being starved.
No one answered the door and the associate left their card.
When the Harts returned, they quickly fled, taking all six kids with them, neighbors said.
On the same day, Sarah Hart texted a friend to say she was gravely ill and might have to go hospital.
The friend tried to reach her after receiving the worrying message and called police when she got no response two days later.
‘Nobody has been able to get ahold of her, talk to her or seen her since… or her wife, which is Jen,’ she told a 911 dispatcher on March 26.
The car was found at the bottom of the cliff in California, some 600 miles away, hours later.
Police have not outrightly said that the women intentionally drove off the edge of the cliff, killing themselves and all of their children.
They continue to work at the scene but have said there were no skid or brake marks on the road which confused them.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Jennifer Smith