She Drove Her Family Off of A Cliff! | The Mothers From Hell: Jennifer & Sarah Hart

(The Hart Family. Collage made by Caledonian Kitty. Picture credits: nzherald / kron4 / lawandcrime / kgw)

This is one of those cases that sent shock waves across the world back in March of 2018 and whenever the names of Jennifer and Sarah Hart are mentioned, the feelings of anger and disbelief return. I only knew a little bit about the case back then but over this past week I've been doing a deep dive into this case and even though I thought it was horrible to hear about at the time, I never knew how horrendous it all actually was. 

It's not that long ago when you think about it, only 5 years have passed and it's considered to be one of the worst murder-suicide cases in American history. So what really happened to the Hart family that resulted in Jennifer and her wife Sarah, orchestrating the deaths of not only themselves but also of the six innocent children that they took in to their lives so many years before and built what looked like (to the outside world) a loving family. I'll be looking at this case in this post so please be aware that I will be mentioning some details regarding child abuse but I will try to be as sensitive as always whilst stating the facts of the case. 

So let's get into the background. Jennifer and Sarah were from similar upbringings and were both born in 1979, there was nothing to note of any trauma in either of their childhoods, they both did well in school and had a reasonable group of friends and social life. When they both graduated from school they both decided that they wanted to work with children and had attended university, Jennifer was at the Augustana University whilst Sarah attended the University of Minnesota. Their paths eventually crossed when they both transferred to Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. They were still interested in working with children and Sarah ended up graduating but Jennifer had dropped out. The pair were extremely close and the friendship soon turned to more of a romantic one. Fearing that their parents and friends wouldn't understand, they kept their relationship quiet in the beginning but soon decided that they didn't want to hide their love for each other any more and came out officially as a couple. They would later claim that they had upset quite a few people by doing this and had lost a few friends and relationships with certain family members had become strained. 

(Jennifer and Sarah Hart. Picture credit: thecinemaholic

The couple started to drift further apart from their families and pretty much kept themselves to themselves, they decided to move to Alexandria in Minnesota and both began working at a department store. The money they made from this job wasn't too bad but they would have preferred to have been a bit more comfortable financially. By this point they were married and they started to think about what it would be like to have a family of their own and stumbled across the idea of fostering a child. They'd heard that foster parents were financially supported by the system and even had more chance of better living conditions. They claimed that they wanted to start a family and give disadvantaged children a proper chance at life, they said that the financial benefits had nothing to do with it. So they adopted a young teenage girl by the name of Lee and everything seemed to be going great, well, in the first six months of her living with them. Lee had a difficult upbringing but was quite a level headed young girl and didn't cause any problems, she was quite happy to have been accepted into the Hart household and she hoped that they would eventually adopt her fully. Jennifer and Sarah explained to Lee that they were in the process of adopting her and all three would go on camping and shopping trips together. Then, cracks began to appear, for some reason three became a crowd and Jennifer seemed to be acting quite jealous of the young girl. What was fine before, seemed to be a problem now and it was silly little things that Jennifer picked upon like how Lee dressed or wore her hair. Lee was a bit of a tomboy and that was never an issue before but now the two women began to taunt her, telling her that she needed a makeover. To keep the pair happy, she went along with it. 

Another strange incident occurred when the three of them went to a sporting event together and they queued up afterwards in an attempt to get an autograph. Jennifer was a huge fan of a particular sportsman but because the man was in a hurry and just focused on signing autographs for the kids (which included Lee), Jennifer took this personally and became angry at Lee. Jennifer gave Lee the silent treatment all the way home in the car and for days afterwards, it was ridiculous behaviour for a woman in her 20s towards a 15 year old child but that is how it was played out. Sarah was the less dominant of the couple and would follow wherever Jennifer leaded so it was pretty much two against one at this point. The incident eventually blew over and things seemed to be ok. The couple would tell friends that Lee had been getting on their nerves because they had found her eating left over bits of food out of the trash. They encouraged Lee to take a job at a local Subway as a way of teaching her to be independent and learn to be responsible. She wasn't allowed to socialise outside of work or school. Her free time was spent with the couple and she would pay them some money towards groceries from her Subway job. Lee was attending regular sessions at therapy which was part of the standard procedure for children with her background and circumstances in foster case, it was also a chance for the authorities to see how Lee was feeling and how she was getting on. 

One day out of the blue, Jennifer and Sarah started talking about how they were planning to bring some more children into the family and that these children would be very young. Lee was excited about all of this because that is what she always dreamed of, to have a stable home environment with a loving family around her. Jennifer and Sarah had been back and forth making arrangements and had even shown pictures of the children to Lee. What was supposed to be an exciting time, soon turned sour because the couple had dropped Lee off at the therapist's office for her usual appointment under the pretence that they'd be picking her up as usual later. As soon as Lee sat down in the therapist's office it soon became clear that they had no intention of collecting her that day, she was told that the couple no longer wished to adopt her and that she would be placed with another family. It was a complete shock and utter rejection out of nowhere. It was a heartless and extremely cold thing to do to a child. Obviously those of us that know the case (and as you will see as you read on) are able to say that she had a lucky escape but it must have been a horrible thing for Lee to go through at that time and not to mention what happened later, the thought that she could have met the same fate at the hands of Jennifer and Sarah Hart. 

To say that the authorities failed time and time again in this case is an absolute understatement. Having just basically dumped one child and making up a pack of lies to save face, they told friends and the few remaining family members that they did speak to, that Lee had been a handful, she had mood swings and was suicidal. All of this was found to be untrue but despite this, Jennifer and Sarah would go on to adopt six black children, Ciera, Abigail, Devonte, Hannah, Markis and Jeremiah. From the outside looking in, The couple looked like these kind people who had opened up their home to these children and wanted to give them a better life. With the tensions that had been going on in America at the time, people were looking for a sense of peace, of unity, especially between white people and black people and here was this white couple who also happened to be gay, adopting six black children and it was like a demonstration that there was still love and goodness left in the world. However, the truth of it all was just a facade.

(The Hart Family. Picture credit: nzherald)

Jennifer and Sarah were claiming money for each of the children that they had taken in and they were looking to make more money. A whole performance on social media played out, endless pictures and videos of the children would be posted with over the top, emotional quotes that the kids are supposed to have said themselves (but really you knew it was just Jennifer and Sarah trying to tug on the heart strings). The children were always as cute as a button and the couple would dress them all up in matching t-shirts and encourage them to dance and sing for the camera. Some people started to notice though that before Jennifer or Sarah hit record, they would be standing there looking utterly miserable. Things started getting more disturbing when the children would be seen with their tops off and their arms exposed revealing tiny, boney frames that were very malnourished. Sarah and Jennifer would tell people that the kids looked like that because of where they came from and that they had been 'drug babies'. Nobody questioned it. Jennifer and Sarah ended up cutting off their family completely and became more and more isolated from friends. They continued to post obsessively about the children and enjoyed the constant likes, comments and attention from their followers. 

The children would be coached to say things and would often be dragged to protests and forced to hold signs. On one occasion, Devonte had been pictured hugging a police officer during the Ferguson Riots and the picture went viral. Little Devonte became a star overnight but all of the attention freaked the couple out and they went quiet for a while before deciding to move again. 

(A police officer with Devonte. Picture credit: nbcnews)

On social media they may have looked like the loving family who were a beacon of hope and unity but behind closed doors it couldn't have been further from the truth. The children were starved to the point that they were digging through the bins trying to find a scrap of food. They'd sneak out to the neighbours and ask for food and even started to eat food out of the bins at school. The children were very small for their age and if the couple ever ordered a pizza, the kids would only be allowed one little slice each, if anyone was caught having more than one slice, they'd be punished the next day by being denied breakfast. Whenever the children spoke up about what was happening at home, the authorities would try and get in touch with the couple to no avail, a lot of the time incidences were swept under the carpet and the children were allowed to continue under their 'care' which was truly shocking. Abigail and Hannah had bruises on their back which were investigated, Hannah claimed that Jennifer had beaten her with a belt, it ended up where Sarah took the blame for everything and was brought before the court, she was given community service for a year and the children still remained with the couple which is so hard to believe. Jennifer and Sarah realised that they couldn't carry on risking the truth of their lifestyle with the children to be exposed so they took the kids out of school and did what they always do, move away. 

They ended up in Washington and the drama continued there with the children growing more and more desperate and trying to to reach out to neighbours. There was a family known as the DeKalbs and Devonte was known to beg for food from this family on a regular basis. He asked them if they could hide some food for him and his siblings but not tell Jennifer or Sarah. The DeKalbs were confused as to what was going on and were quite concerned but they later said that they didn't want to bring any trouble to their doorstep. More incidences occurred with Hannah jumping out of her second floor window in the early hours of the morning and running over to the DeKalbs house, she begged them for help and to keep her safe. They had already been keeping note of the strange goings-on but when Jennifer and Sarah turned up at their door acting like the nice, concerned couple, they ended up returning Hannah back to them. The whole situation grew even more bizarre with Jennifer going over to the DeKalbs house the next morning with a handwritten note by Hannah explaining that she had fallen out with her brother and was sorry. Jennifer told the family that the children had come from bad backgrounds and were just acting out, she even had the kids come over and apologise in person. The family couldn't believe what they were seeing when they saw these six, scared to death kids stood in a row like they had been forced and coached what to say. The father in law of the DeKalb couple was so concerned and alarmed by all of this that he phoned the authorities himself and explained that he was worried sick about the children and that something needed to be done. 

(One of the pictures that shocked the public. The children looking very thin and malnourished. Picture credit: glamour)

Jennifer and Sarah must have sensed that the net was closing in on them again and this time there was nowhere to run and hide. They knew that it was only a matter of time before they both ended up in jail for what they had been doing to those children, all of their past abuse was going to catch up with them and they were going to be exposed to everyone. 

They had spent years building up this online reputation as this amazing couple, a pair of saints who took these children in and gave them a loving home. They constantly preached about togetherness, equality, love and fairness when they were beating these children and starving them as soon as they stepped away from their Facebook account. 

Like a lot of these horrible stories of abuse, it has to end somehow and we always hope and pray that a child comes to safety and is rescued from evil people but the truth is, a lot of them don't. A phone call was made to the Hart residence by the authorities and it's unknown if Jennifer and Sarah knew about it because nobody answered but one wonders if they checked the phone number and knew that they were in trouble. 

What also angers me about this case is the sheer laziness of the authorities and the whole 'holiday mode' lack of action from other people. I never met these children in real life but I have viewed so many pictures and videos of them and I can clearly see how thin and emaciated they were. The constant pictures and 'perform for the cameras' routine that was going on. It was clear that Jennifer and Sarah were a pair of narcissists that were using these children as props and for financial gain. With everything that had gone on in the past and now reports that the kids were going to the neighbours begging for food, jumping out of windows and begging not to be taken back and all the authorities can do is make a lousy phonecall. They made that one phonecall and then three days later tried again to contact Jennifer and Sarah to no avail. I keep thinking about the man who called the authorities and the care and concern in his voice. I think about how he must feel today, assuming that he is still alive. That poor man was the only one from what I can see that actually really tried to do something to protect those kids and get them some help. 

I have been in a situation where I knew that a child was being physically abused and I didn't hesitate to call the authorities and I chased it up to make sure that they did something about it, I also have experience of working with young people in and out of care in the UK. I've heard many stories of children being abandoned as soon as they turn a certain aged because the financial support stops, it's appalling. There's actual people in this country that are fostering children for financial gain. Let me be clear, I'm not saying that everyone here who fosters is like this but a lot of them are and you'd be surprised at who they let these kids live with. There's been some devastating stories over the years because of failings in the system and by the sounds of it, the American childcare system is just as bad as ours. 

On the 26th of March 2018, Jennifer and Sarah had decided that they were going to commit suicide and take the six innocent children with them, another selfish and evil act right up to the end. They purchased over the counter medicine, Benadryl and consumed some of it before giving it to the children. Jennifer had consumed a lot of alcohol. With everyone in the SUV, Jennifer drove to a 100 ft cliff in Mendocino County in California. All of the seat belts were undone and Jennifer revved up the engine, put the boot down and drove the vehicle over the cliff. 

(The cliff where the Hart family died. Picture credit: thedailybeast)

There were no witnesses and the scene, as you can imagine was horrific. Investigators found that before the suicide-murder took place, Sarah had been looking up things online such as death and suicide. It was clear that it was a pact between the two of them. As always, Jennifer was the leader and Sarah was the follower but Sarah was pretty much on the same thought path as Jennifer, she even told a friend that she regretted bringing the children into their lives. 

In another sad fact of the case, Devonte (15), who inspired people all over the world and became a little star in his own right, well, his body was never found. The bodies of the murderers, Jennifer and Sarah were found. Ciera (12), Abigail (14), Hannah (16), Markis (19) and Jeremiah (14) were found. It is with hope that all of the children were completely out of it with the Benadryl before going over that cliff. 

It's hard to believe that something so evil could have taken place but again it shows us how what you see on social media is not always to be believed. We have problems in this world, people who want to create divides and sadly there are people who want to take advantage of the situation either financially or to get attention on social media. Jennifer and Sarah took advantage of so many people, the black community, the LGBTQ+ community, people who were campaigning for peace and equality and they used those children for their own gain. If they didn't want to be in this world anymore then that was up to them, but don't take the kids too, they didn't deserve that and they didn't deserve any of it. 

I just wanted to add in here that the Hart family had dogs and they were looking at no-kill shelters to send them too. They must have decided against this because when investigators got to the house they found the dogs there alive and also, that there was only one proper bed for the children to sleep in. 

I don't even know if any lessons have been learnt by this, I'm hoping that someone will tell me that the childcare system that dealt with Jennifer and Sarah in the various states that they moved to, have improved or taken this horrible incident and made changes to procedures because this cannot be allowed to happen again. 

RIP Ciera, Abigail, Devonte, Hannah, Markis & Jeremiah and God Bless the man who phoned the authorities and tried to get them to help the children, he truly is a good Samaritan and we need more people like him in this world. Thank you sir. 

(The Hart children: Ciera, Jeremiah, Abigail, Devonte, Hannah and Markis. Picture credit: oregonlive)

Further Reading & Sources:

The Hart Family: Article | The Independent

The Hart Family Murders | Wikipedia

The Hart Family: Article | People Magazine

The Hart Family: Article | Oregon Live

Jennifer & Sarah Hart: Article | CNN Edition

The Hart Family: Article | New York Post

Jennifer and Sarah Hart: Article | Glamour Magazine

The Hart Family Murders | Investigation Discovery

Jennifer & Sarah Hart: Article |

This was another difficult case to get through and I thank you for coming this far with me if you've managed to reach the end. As always, please share your thoughts below or email me at 

Take care and I'll see you in the next post x 


  1. I started reading this last night and had to stop when I read what Sarah and Jennifer did to Lee. Just getting that far pulled on every heartstring, and left me feeling devastated and heartbroken.

    After working all night I finally was able to emotionally gather myself and return to this case only to see that the travesty of what they did to Lee was nothing in comparison to what was to come from these two evil women.

    Children should never be victims of anything but specifically they should never ever be left in the cruel hands of such evil people.

    The failure of social services is nearly as horrible as the blind eye that so many chose to turn to these two such and evil women.

    I remember seeing the photo Devonte hugging the officer during the Furgeson riots and feeling inspired with hope that maybe there's something promising in the turmoil our society was going through could happen.

    But now to read that these monsters did what they did I'm devastated and feel heartbroken beyond compare.

    This world needs more love, more care and more angels like the man that tried to get the authorities to step in and like you for calling the authorities when that child was being abused.

    All of these cases are always heartbreaking but I find this week's case the most heartbreaking as I have years in my eyes writing this.

    Thank you for such a truly brilliantly written case and for keeping the memories of the children that suffered from these two women alive.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on this case, it was a difficult one to get through and I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment x


  2. I hope that you’re having a great day so far Jo.

    Obviously, it was a very difficult case to read. When a case is involving children, it’s always so tough, I’m always heartbroken.
    Jennifer & Sarah Hart are horrendous evil women. I can’t properly describe them. They were monsters, narcissistic, and evil coward.

    What they have done to Lee was so cold and heartless. The authorities again were incompetent.

    I can tell you that the Canadian childcare system isn’t any better. There aren’t enough people to work on the case and the government didn’t put any money to have the proper resource to take care of the children.

    They commit suicide and bring the children with them. That is awful. I’m speechless. That was so cruel and horrific.

    I can’t believe what they have done to these angels. I can’t believe that such evilness exist in our world.

    Hearbreaking case.

    RIP to all the children. These little angels will never be forgotten Xx

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on this case, it was a difficult one to get through and I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment x