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Body Found Could Be 1 Of 3 Missing Victims From Mendocino Crash

A body was recovered Saturday near where an SUV plunged off a Northern California cliff last month, killing a family of eight in what authorities suspect may have been an intentional crash.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's office issued a statement about the body that was found in the surf of the Pacific Ocean.

"This area is in the immediate vicinity of the recent Hart Family crash. The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office responded to the location to conduct a coroner's investigation and learned that a couple, vacationing along the coast, observed a possible body floating in the surf near Juan Creek. The body was pulled from the surf, onto the beach, by a third bystander where it was later recovered by Westport Fire."

As Scott Neuman reported for The Two-Way earlier this month:

"The family from Woodland, Wash. — Sarah and Jennifer Hart, who were married, and at least three of the couple's six adopted children — was in the vehicle on California's scenic Highway 1 near the city of Westport when it accelerated rapidly off the cliff and fell 100 feet to the rocky shore.

"The two women, both 38, were found dead inside the SUV, while three of their children — Markis Hart, 19, Jeremiah Hart, 14, and Abigail Hart, 14 — were discovered outside the vehicle. Searchers were looking for Hannah Hart, 16; Sierra Hart, 12; and Devonte Hart, 15."

Lt. Shannon Barney in the sheriff's office statement wrote:

"The recovered body appears to be that of an African American Female but the age and a positive identity could not be determined. An autopsy will be conducted on Tuesday and the cause of death is unknown.

"The Sheriff's Office is investigating the possibility that the body may be one of the two missing Hart girls but identification will most likely be done through DNA analysis, a process that can take several weeks."

The discovery of the body on Saturday followed a two-day storm that hit Northern California. The sheriff's office say there were no other signs of the missing Hart children.

One of the missing is Devonte Hart. In 2014, when he was 12, his face struck a deep national chord — a black child, tears streaming down his face, gripping a white police officer in an embrace, just as bitterness tore at the nation during Ferguson-related protests.

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Doreen McCallister
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
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