More disturbing details have emerged in the demise of an Oregon couple and their six adopted kids late last month.
Court records obtained by The Oregonian show that the aunt of missing child Devonte Hart, 15, sought custody of the boy and his three siblings, but was denied by a Texas court after she violated an order barring Hart and his siblings from seeing their biological mother, who was a drug addict. Hart and his siblings were ultimately adopted by Sarah and Jennifer Hart in 2009.
“We see no reason why [aunt Priscilla] Celestine should be allowed to have yet another bite at the proverbial apple,” the court’s opinion stated.
On March 26, Sarah and Jennifer were found dead after their SUV plummeted to the bottom of a cliff in California. Three of their adopted children were in the vehicle: Abigail, 14, Marquis, 19, and Jeremiah, 14. Authorities are still searching for Devonte and his sisters, 16-year-old Hannah and 17-yea-old Sierra.
Devonte was the subject of a viral photo, where he embraced an officer during a “Black Lives Matter” rally in 2014.
According to KOIN 6 News, the biological mother of Devonte and his siblings only learned of the tragic crash this week. Her husband, who wasn’t immediately identified, said she’s taking the news really “hard.”
“The way they went about moving the kids from here was wrong,” the husband said, adding that he and his wife received the heartbreaking news from Celestine on Wednesday. “They never should have been moved away from Texas.”
Police believe Sarah and Jennifer drove their car off the cliff intentionally, as there were no skid marks found near the scene. According to The Oregonian, the children’s tragic deaths came just days after child protective services made a visit to the family’s house — and for good reason, as the couple had been accused of abusive behavior in the past.
A report from local station KATU in Oregon, where the family resided, cited CPS reports from neighbors who said Devonte would come begging for food several times a day. He would ask the neighbor to leave the food in a box outside where his mothers couldn’t see it.
When asked if his parents were feeding him and his siblings, Devonte told the neighbor “they punish him by taking away food for one meal or entire days, … [and] his parents were mean/and not feeding him meals for days at a time and he doesn’t like his parents.”
“He mentioned they go long periods of time without food and they’re just hungry,” the document stated.
A report from six months earlier revealed Hannah Hart jumped from a second-story window looking for help and told neighbors her moms were “racist and abusive.” She also said she was being beaten with belts, the neighbors told CPS officials.
The very next morning, Sarah, Jennifer and the rest of the family came over and explained to the neighbors that their children were being homeschooled. That is when the neighbors said they noticed Hannah was missing two teeth, which her mom claimed was the result of a bad fall.
According to KATU, a caseworker attempted to visit the home on March 23 and left her card after no one answered the door. She returned on the morning of March 26 to news that the Hart family had fled the home that Friday.