TWO mums drugged themselves and their six adopted children before intentionally driving off a 100ft cliff in a harrowing murder-suicide plot, an inquest has ruled.
Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, and their children — aged 12 to 19 — were found in the mangled wreckage of their car at the bottom of a California cliff in March last year.
The couple, from Portland, Oregon, were being investigated at the time on suspicion of child neglect.
Neighbours had reported some of the kids had been starved and were begging for food.
Child welfare officials visited their home three days before the harrowing cliff plunge in Mendocino County, California.
California Highway Patrol investigator Jake Slates told the San Francisco Chronicle: “They both decided that this was going to be the end.
“That if they can’t have their kids, that nobody was going to have those kids.”
The fatal crash was the largest mass murder in Mendocino County history, according to Sheriff and Coroner Tom Allman.
The bodies of three of the children — 19-year-old Markis, as well as Jeremiah and Abigail, both 14 — were found outside the SUV on rocks at the bottom of the cliff.
On Wednesday, a medical examiner ruled that both Jennifer and Sarah Hart, as well as Markis, Jeremiah and Abigail, died of broken necks.
The remains of Ciera, 12, were found weeks after the wreck in the Pacific Ocean, but her body was too decomposed to make a definitive ruling as to how she died.
A partial foot found on a Northern California beach has been connected to 16-year-old Hannah, while the remains of the family’s sixth child, Devonte, 15, have not been found.
Toxicology tests revealed that Jennifer Hart, who rarely drank, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.104 at the time, roughly the equivalent of five beers, investigators were told.
No one inside the SUV was believed to be wearing a seat belt.
That is despite friends saying that Jennifer Hart regularly acted as a “seat belt Nazi” – and often refused to drive until her entire family buckled up, the Chronicle reported.
A search of Sarah Hart’s cellphone revealed Google searches into drug quantities.
She also searched whether drowning would be painful and what common medications could be taken to prompt an overdose.
Toxicology reports found large doses of over-the-counter drugs in all of the victims.
The children were more than likely unconscious. Sarah would have been extremely intoxicated at that point
Jake SlatesCalifornia Highway Patrol investigator
Slates said that the level found in Sarah Hart’s blood indicated she took 42 doses – while Markis had more than 19 doses in his blood.
He added: “The children were more than likely unconscious.
“Sarah would have been extremely intoxicated at that point.”
Neighbours of the Harts told US media at the time of their deaths that they suspected the children may have been abused.
A neighbour told KOIN (6) one of the Harts’ sons, Devonte, had come over more than a dozen times begging for food.
Bruce DeKalb said one of their girls rang their doorbell in distress at 1.30am.
He said: “She was at our door in a blanket saying we needed to protect her.
“She said that they were abusing her.”
Sarah Hart had pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota in 2011.
Her plea also led to the dismissal of a charge of malicious punishment of a child, online court records say.