As 2018 comes to a close, it is important to acknowledge the Black lives we senselessly lost this year. Some were by the hands of a police officer — but five of them were killed by their white adoptive parents.
On March 26, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 39, drove their SUV off a cliff in Northern California. In the car were six of their adopted children, Markis Hart, 19; Jeremiah Hart, 14; Abigail Hart, 14; Hannah Hart; 12-year-old Sierra Hart and 15-year-old Devonte Hart, who is known for a viral photo in which he is hugging a police officer in November 2014. Devonte’s body was never found.
There were countless reports of abuse, which dated back to 2008, and despite 911 calls by neighbors, no one at Child Protective Services took enough action to save the lives of children who were crying out for help. The children were reportedly starved and beaten. In one report, Hannah appeared to be fighting for her and her siblings’ lives. The Oregonian said, “Hannah jumped from her second-story window at 1:30 a.m. last year, rang her doorbell and ran into her house. Hannah was covered in weeds and blackberries and asked DeKalb to hide her. The girl said her parents were racist and had been abusing her.” The DeKalbs were their neighbors and in addition, reports the newspaper, “All eight of the Harts came over the next morning. Jennifer Hart said Hannah had two missing teeth after falling and knocking them out and that Hannah didn’t want new ones.”
Sadly, Devonte Hart was supposedly afraid of authorities splitting up his siblings. Says The Oregonian, “He was apparently concerned about law enforcement getting involved and didn’t want he and his siblings to be split up. DeKalb asked why the children weren’t ever outside, and Devonte said his parents wanted to keep their children hidden.”
The family lived in Woodland, Washington, near Portland, Oregon, and were reportedly on a road trip, though Child Protective Services had been trying to contact them for days. Reportedly, Jennifer Hart was drunk at the time of the crash. In addition, two of the children were drugged with “a significant amount” of diphenhydramine, which is an ingredient found in Benadryl, according to the Associated Press. Sarah Hart reportedly also had diphenhydramine in her system. Authorities believe the two women purposely killed themselves and the children.
Their biological mother Sherry Davis, 48, lost custody of her three children, Devonte, Jeremiah and Sierra, due to a cocaine addiction in 2006, NewsOne reported in April. Texas’ Department of Family and Protective Services temporarily placed the Billings with their aunt, Priscilla Celestine. However, the children were taken away from the aunt in December 2006 — even though she had no criminal record, a steady job at a hospital, had raised her own daughter and moved to a bigger house to accommodate the children. Nonetheless, the aunt lost custody because she let the children see their biological mother, which was against court orders (Celestine was called in for work at the last minute and she let the children stay with their mother for a few hours). The kids were soon placed in the hands of their adoptive parents who abused and eventually killed them.
Below is the famous photo of Devonte Hart.
Rest in peace to all of the Hart children.