California cliff (illustrative)
California cliff (illustrative) iStock

At least one of the lesbian mothers who drove their children off a California cliff last month was too intoxicated to drive, authorities say.

In the crash, the Hart family's SUV accelerated off a cliff in California. Three of the children were found dead, two are missing, and an additional body was found but has yet to be identified. Authorities believe the missing children may have been swept out to sea.

The dead children have been identified as Markis, 19, and Jeremiah and Abigail, both 14. The missing children are Hannah, 16, Devonte, 15, and Sierra, 12.

Jennifer Hart's blood alcohol level was 0.102, but California law forbids driving with an alcohol level over 0.08, California Patrol Captain Bruce Carpenter. He added that neither Hart nor her passengers were wearing seatbelts, Carpenter said.

In addition, toxicology tests showed that Jennifer's "wife," Sarah Hart, as well as at least two of their six adopted children, had a "significant amount" of diphenhydramine, a sedative found in Benadryl, in their systems at the time of the crash. The third child's toxicology report is still pending.

Beginning in 2004, prior to adopting two sets of siblings in 2006 and 2009, Jennifer and Sarah Hart had served as foster parents for a child authorities identified as "Lee."

Lee's first few months with the Harts were positive, but things began to go downhill as the Harts considered adopting other children.

At one point, they dropped Lee off at her weekly therapy session, but never picked her up. The therapist explained to Lee that her belongings had been removed from the Hart home, and she would be placed with another family.

Speaking to the Times, Lee said, "I don't believe Jen and Sarah to be evil people, and I don't want to believe that they killed their family intentionally."

She also said she was a difficult child to manage, and that Jennifer was "more moody" than Sarah, the NY Daily News reported. At one point, the three took a trip to Lambeau Field, in hopes of Ahman Green autographing their footballs. When that didn't happen, Jennifer called Lee a "brat" and proceeded to ignore her for several days. Lee described the trip as "a huge fiasco."

In 2010, the Harts were suspected of abusing their adopted children, when a six-year-old daughter complained to her teacher about pains in her stomach and back, and said she had been hit. Upon investigation, the school found bruises on the girl's chest and back, which Sarah Hart took responsibility for.

Sarah served a year of community service and probation for the misdemeanor.

Police also discovered that Hannah, the girl who showed up at her neighbors' at 1:30a.m after having jumped out her second-story window, said her mothers "were racist and abusing her."

On March 26, a few hours before the crash, one of Sarah's friends called 911 requesting a welfare check, CNN reported. The friend said Sarah had sent a text saying she was sick, but her phone was now off and neither she nor Jennifer had been seen.

The Seattle Times reported that Shonda Jones, an attorney who saw the case on the news, recognized the names and said, "They said something about Harris County. And they said they were sent to Minneapolis. I knew it was them."

Jones said that she'd worked to give Devonte, Jeremiah, and Sierra back to their aunt ten years ago, and had kept the case file.

"I thought for some reason I needed to hold onto it," Jones said.

Jones' file shows that the siblings were removed from their home after their biological mother tested positive for cocaine. Following the removal, their aunt petitioned to adopt Devonte, Sierra, and Jeremiah, plus another sibling who did not live with the Harts.

Jones worked with the aunt to have the children placed in kinship care, but to no avail.

"I thought that was punitive," the Seattle Times quoted her as saying. "They were rushing these kids out to Minneapolis to rush them to people who had an abuse allegation in their background. To me, it doesn’t make sense."

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