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Minnesota police report tells of another Hart family abuse allegation

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A Minnesota police report obtained Wednesday tells of another abuse allegation made by one of the Hart children, three years before Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to assaulting one of her six adoptive children and almost 10 years before the Washington family’s fatal plunge from a Mendocino Coast cliff.

An Alexandria, Minnesota police report from September 2008, says that then 6-year-old Hannah Hart told authorities a bruise on her arm was caused when her mother Jen Hart struck her with a belt. When investigators questioned Jen and Sarah Hart about it, they said they didn’t know how the bruise could have gotten there, “but stated that a few days prior to our interview, (Hannah) had fallen down eight stairs in their house,” the report says. The case was referred to the county’s social services department, with no indication of police follow-up.

In November 2010, another adoptive daughter, then 6-year-old Abigail Hart, told a teacher that the bruises — “owies” — on her abdomen and back appeared after Jen Hart disciplined her by putting her head under cold water, bending her over the bathtub and hitting her with a closed fist. When questioned about the incident, Sarah Hart took responsibility for the punishment, telling authorities she “let her anger get out of control.”

Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to domestic assault the next spring, and one day after a probation agreement was reached, she and Jen Hart pulled Abigail Hart and all five of her siblings from Alexandria Public Schools, in favor of a home school environment.

Prior to their SUV’s crash off a 100-foot Mendocino Coast cliff, which authorities are now calling “intentional,” a concerned friend filed a 2013 domestic abuse case against them in West Linn, Oregon, and following their move to Woodland, Washington in 2017, a fourth domestic abuse allegation was filed in March 2018.

Three days after a Washington State Department of Social and Health Services worker attempted to contact the Hart family, five of their bodies, including Abigail Hart, now 14, were found near their SUV at the base of a cliff north of Westport.

Hannah Hart, 16, Devonte Hart, 16, and Cierra Hart, 12, are still missing.

You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or christi.warren@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @SeaWarren.

Editor’s note: The Sheriff’s Office had initially identified the missing person from Woodland, Washington as Sierra Hart. The correct spelling is Cierra Hart. This article has been corrected to reflect this change.

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