The shocking accident made national news.
But then the details started emerging…like the fact that Jen, who had been driving, had alcohol in her system, while Sarah and two of the children appeared to have taken Benadryl. No one seemed to have been wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. And the speedometer was at 90 miles per hour…had Jen not tried to brake at all? Or did she purposefully drive the SUV off the cliff? As more information got out, more and more questions about who Sarah and Jen arose, and in Broken Harts , a new investigative podcast from Glamour and HowStuffWorks , their relationship history, ongoing troubles with Child Protective Services and allegations of abuse are being meticulously unpacked, as the reporters talk to their friends, family, neighbors and the police to try and understand one of the year's most disturbing stories once the filter was removed.
Another friend Zippy Lomax told the magazine, "There was nothing about the way Jen was presenting their life that seemed at all at odds with my understanding of who they were. But behind the endless stream of photos of their six children smiling presented with long, happy-memory-filled captions, was a long history of abuse allegations, with the couple being reported and investigated in three different states. In , Jen and Sarah, who had then been dating for about a year, became first-time mothers in a big way: Markis , 8, Hannah , 4, and Abigail , 2, a set of siblings, became their foster children.
In a detailed Facebook post , Jen recounted the hardships of their first night of motherhood, but said they remained committed to becoming mothers to the three Texas siblings. Two years later, they took in three more foster children, another trio of siblings: Devonte , 5, Jermiah, 4, and Ciera, 3, with the couple changing the spelling of latter children's name to Jeremiah and Sierra.
But the couple had actually fostered another child in , when they were in their mid-twenties. A year-old girl came to live with them and was expecting to be a big sister to the first set of siblings they would adopt…until they dropped her off at a therapist's office and she never saw them again. While there was some friction between the girl and the couple, mostly Jen, she told The Seattle Times , "I remember being devastated. While Sarah worked, Jen stayed home and raised the children, later home-schooling them when they were all abruptly pulled out of school following investigations by CPS.
The couple was big into "transformational festivals," which partially factored into their move from Minnesota to Portland in They would bring their kids to the days-long events, which included yoga, music and dancing. Jen would often post photos from these festivals, with all of the children wearing huge smiles, and would post inspiring updates from their daily life. As a friend told Glamour , "She was a master poster. Commenters would leave glowing remarks about their parenting. Some even asked if they would ever think of doing a reality show. But the first sign of something not being right in the Hart household actually happened ten years prior to the horrifying crash, with police interviewing the couple in September after Hannah showed up at school with bruises on her arm, telling a teacher she had been whipped with a belt, according to a police report.
Still, how was the couple ultimately allowed to foster three more children, with the agency even using a photo of Jen and Sarah with their first three adopted kids? Then in , Sarah is charged with malicious punishment of a child and misdemeanor domestic assault, according to Minnesota court records, after bruises are discovered on Abigail at school.
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But in the police report, Abigail had said it was Jen that had injured her because they thought she had stolen a penny that fell out of her pocket. When the other children were questioned, they revealed they were often spanked or sent to bed without food.
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When Sarah told police she had been the one to spank Abigail, Jen backed up her account, with investigators believing them. They didn't want anyone in their business," Larry Dailey , the former police who interviewed the Harts, told Glamour. In , after Sarah plead guilty, she was sentenced to community service and one year probation. Around this time, the couple pulled all six of the kids out of school and they never went back, with Jen home-schooling them.
Following their move to Oregon in , a few people called into CPS to report some troubling things they had noticed. A former friend of theirs also called Child Protective Services after the Hart family had stayed with them, claiming Jen handled the children "like a regimented boot camp," adding that she would often get angry if they laughed too loudly. According to the report filed by the case worker, Jen was "adamant that many of the family's issues stemmed from others not understanding [their] alternative lifestyle. While the state ultimately closed the case, the case worker had warned, "The problem is these women look normal.
If any of the kids received positive attention from Jen, it was Devonte, friends said. When he was 12, a photo of him went viral, with it being called "the hug shared around the world. Questions later arose if the moment was staged, and according to a Clark County sheriff's report, Sarah had told a co-worker that the moment had changed her wife.
Jen claimed to friends he had to turn down many TV offers, and posted on Facebook, asking people not to share photos of the Hart children. By mid, after a social media break, Jen revealed the family had moved to Washington, their third state since adopting their children. And while they tried to remain "private," their neighbors eventually reported an incident to police.
Abuse, Lies and Unspeakable Tragedy: The Horrifying True Story of Broken Harts | E! News
According to his wife, Dana DeKalb , the girl said to them , "They're racists, and they abuse us! It was Hannah, who was missing her two front teeth, and claimed she had been whipped with a belt and not been fed as punishment, according to an incident report. Jen eventually was able to convince Bruce and Dana everything was OK.
When explaining why they home-schooled the kids, Jen said it was because they were bullied. But then a nervous Devonte showed up asking for food. And kept showing up, even coming with a list of food. Eventually, he told Dana that his mothers withheld food from him and his siblings.
Finally feeling like they had enough information, the DeKalbs called CPS on March 23, just a few days before the crash. Jen didn't answer the door. By the next day, the Hart tribe was gone. What really happened next that lead up to the horrifying discovery of their flipped car on March 26 hundreds of miles away from their home, no one knows…not even the police.
We don't know what happened.
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