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California woman who drove family off cliff was drunk: sheriff

17 April 2018

Farther south along the Mendocino County coast, authorities continue to look for members of the Hart family, missing since an SUV made a deadly and possibly intentional plunge off a towering ocean bluff along the Pacific Coast Highway last month.

Police had previously said they believed the Hart family died in a suicide plunge from a scenic overlook. Hannah Hart, 16; Devonte Hart, 15; and Sierra Hart, 12, have not been found.

Sarah Hart and two of the three children found dead at the scene tested positive for diphenhydramine, an active ingredient in Benadryl.

The toxicology report was released Friday in California as authorities in Washington state provided details about visits from child protective services to the family's home there.

On Thursday items found in the river revealed that the vehicle sought was the Thottapilly's when relatives positively identified the items as the family's. California drivers are considered drunk with a level of 0.08 or higher. It has not been determined in the third child.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said an autopsy will be conducted Tuesday on a body found today that is assumed to be a member of the Thottapilly family that went missing last week ahead of a stop in San Jose. The crash killed Jennifer Hart, 38, Sarah Hart, 38, Markis Hart, 19, Jeremiah Hart, 14, and Abigail Hart, 14.

A neighbor of the Harts in Woodland, Washington, had filed a complaint, saying the children were apparently being deprived of food as punishment.

Sarah Hart earlier had faced allegations of mistreatment in Minnesota, where she and Jennifer lived when the children were adopted about a decade ago from Texas.

And authorities have said social services officials in OR contacted the West Linn Police Department about the family in 2013 while they were living in the area.

Argyropoulos wrote that as a family friend she initially thought Jennifer Hart was a loving mother.

Before the SUV was found at the bottom of the cliff off US Highway 101 on March 26, Jennifer Hart's blood-alcohol content was over the legal limit to drive and some of the children were sedated when she, possibly intentionally, got a 70-foot start and accelerated off the cliff without braking, according to police, which are investigating the crash as a crime.

California woman who drove family off cliff was drunk: sheriff