Episode 226:

50 Hour Days

The Hart Family Murder/Suicide


The Murder of Stephen Lawrence


Episode 226: 50 Hour Days

Karen and Georgia cover the Hart Family murder/suicide and the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

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The Hart Family Murder/Suicide

The Hart Family Murder/Suicide Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Michael Liao on Unsplash

Other Images (not pictured):

The Hart Family (via Wikipedia)

The Hart Family in 2016 (Tristan Fortsch/KATU News via AP file via NBCnews.com)

Kids Sierra, Jeremiah, Abigail, Devonte, Hannah and Markis Hart (from Jennifer Hart's Facebook via SFist.com)


"The Hart family murder was a March 2018 murder-suicide by child abusers, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, who murdered their six adopted children by driving the family's SUV off a cliff in California.

Jennifer Jean "Jen" Hart originated from Huron, South Dakota, and Sarah Margaret Hart (née Sarah Margaret Gengler) originated from Big Stone City, South Dakota. They were both born in 1979 Jennifer Hart attended Huron High School (South Dakota) and Sarah attended high school in Minnesota. Some sources described Ortonville, Minnesota, adjacent to Big Stone City, as Sarah Hart's hometown. The two women attended Northern State University; Sarah initially attended University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for one semester before transferring and Jennifer had transferred from Augustana University. Both women majored in elementary education, with the latter focusing on special education. The former did not graduate, while the latter did. The two women were no longer university students after 2002.

The women began their relationship at the university; on Facebook Jennifer stated that the women were initially in the closet and faced ostracism once they publicly outed themselves, prompting their moves. They moved to Alexandria, Minnesota in 2004, were subsequently residents of West Linn, Oregon, and Woodland, Washington; and had six adopted children during their lives. The couple was living in Woodland at the time of the crash. In 2005 Sarah asked the local court to have her family name altered to match her partner's. They went to Connecticut to be married in 2009; at the time gay marriage was not yet legal in every state. Jennifer worked miscellaneous jobs until she became a stay-at-home mother in 2006, while Sarah worked as a manager at a Herberger's shop in Alexandria, and later at a Kohl's in Hazel Dell, Washington. The Harts received funds from the state of Texas, covering their children. Almost 50% of the family income was made up of Texas funding.

Prior to adopting their six children, Jennifer and Sarah Hart were foster parents to a 15-year-old girl. A week prior to when the other children were due to arrive, the Harts dropped the 15-year-old girl off at a therapist appointment and the therapist informed her that the Harts would not be coming back to get her, saying the Harts were just not a good fit.

Abigail (born 2003), Hannah Jean (born 2002), and Markis Hart (born 1998) were adopted from Colorado County, Texas; the placement came on March 4, 2006. The children's biological parent(s) had their parental rights canceled by a court in Harris County, Texas in August, and the formal adoption came in September. In June 2008 they adopted three additional children, Ciera Maija, Devonte Jordan, and Jeremiah Hart. Devonte, Jeremiah, and Ciera were born in 2002, 2004, and 2005, respectively, and originated from Houston. Their biological mother lost custody as she had substance abuse problems with crack cocaine. Each of the children had a different biological father. They were given to an aunt under the condition that they have no contact with their biological mother, but the aunt allowed the biological mother to babysit the children, and a case worker observed this; therefore the aunt lost custody. She attempted to obtain permanent custody of the children, but the courts prevented her from doing so. Ciera later became known under the spelling "Sierra" although legally her name's spelling was not changed.

Prior to the murders, Devonte Hart was 12 years old when he came into the national spotlight when he was photographed crying as he embraced a police officer during a 2014 Ferguson protest. The image became known as the "hug felt 'round the world."Jennifer Hart was very active on social media and used Facebook to portray an image of a loving, happy family while also sharing her thoughts on race, politics, and trips the family went on. This helped mask some of the problems in the family. One allegation of child abuse in 2013 touched upon Jennifer Hart's use of Facebook, saying that, “...the kids pose and are made to look like one big happy family, but after the photo event, they go back to looking lifeless.”

On Monday, March 26, 2018, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, and six of their children died when an SUV driven by Jennifer Hart drove over a 100-foot (30 m) cliff on Highway 1, in Mendocino County, California, near Westport. Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, who were in the front seats, died. The bodies of five of the children (Hannah, 16; Markis, 19; Jeremiah, 14; Abigail, 14; and Ciera, 12) were found in or nearby the vehicle, that landed upside down on a Pacific Ocean beach. The body of Devonte, 15, has not been found. A superior court judge ruled that Devonte was in the vehicle at the time of the crash, and a death certificate was signed on April 3, 2019.

Authorities found that the SUV had been intentionally driven off the edge of the cliff. The case was later ruled a murder–suicide, as all members of a coroner's jury decided that the destruction of the vehicle and its occupants was on purpose. The jury had debated the issue for about an hour, and a definitive finding required a majority of the jurors. The jury was made up of eight women and six men. The inquest was called to determine cause of death, and not any responsibility in the civil or criminal fields. The California Highway Patrol emailed Glamour magazine, stating that criminal prosecution was not possible due to the deaths of any responsible parties.

Toxicology results showed that Jennifer Hart at the time of the crash was over the alcohol legal limit. The toxicology tests also found that Sarah Hart and two of their children had diphenhydramine in their syst Before the crash Sarah Hart made Google searches inquiring about Benadryl, no kill shelters, and the nature of drowning...."

— Source: Hart Family Crash Wikipedia

The Murder of Stephen Lawrence

The Murder of Stephen Lawrence Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Darren Viollet on Unsplash

Other images (not pictured):

Stephen Lawrence (via Wikipedia)

The gang suspected of the Stephen Lawrence murder, 1998 (Paul Hackett/Reuters via TheGuardian.com)

Stephen Lawrence's family outside the Old Bailey in 1997 (Photonews Service Ltd/REX via TheGuardian.com)

The Daily Mail Newspaper headline (via Wikipedia)


"Stephen Lawrence (13 September 1974 – 22 April 1993) was a black British teenager from Plumstead, Southeast London, who was murdered in a racially motivated attack while waiting for a bus in Well Hall, Eltham on the evening of 22 April 1993. The case became a cause célèbre; its fallout included cultural changes of attitudes on racism and the police, and to the law and police practice. It also led to the partial revocation of the rule against double jeopardy. Two of the perpetrators were convicted of murder in 2012.

After the initial investigation, five suspects were arrested but not charged. It was suggested during the investigation that Lawrence was killed because he was black, and that the handling of the case by the police and Crown Prosecution Service was affected by issues of race. A 1998 public inquiry, headed by Sir William Macpherson, examined the original Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) investigation and concluded that the force was institutionally racist. It also recommended that the double jeopardy rule should be repealed in murder cases to allow a retrial upon new and compelling evidence: this was effected in 2005 upon enactment of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The publication in 1999 of the resulting Macpherson Report has been called "one of the most important moments in the modern history of criminal justice in Britain". Jack Straw, Home Secretary from 1997 to 2001, commented in 2012 that ordering the inquiry was "the single most important decision I made as Home Secretary". In 2010 the case was said to be "one of the highest-profile unsolved racially motivated murders".

On 18 May 2011, after a further review, it was announced that two of the original suspects, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were to stand trial for the murder in the light of new evidence. At the same time it was disclosed that Dobson's original acquittal had been quashed by the Court of Appeal, allowing a retrial to take place. Such an appeal had only become possible following the 2005 change in the law, although Dobson was not the first person to be retried for murder as a result. On 3 January 2012, Dobson and Norris were found guilty of Lawrence's murder; the pair were juveniles at the time of the crime and were sentenced to detention at Her Majesty's pleasure, equivalent to a life sentence for an adult, with minimum terms of 15 years 2 months and 14 years 3 months respectively for what the judge described as a "terrible and evil crime".

In the years after Dobson and Norris were sentenced, the case regained prominence when concerns of corrupt police conduct during the original case handling surfaced in the media. Such claims had surfaced before, and been investigated in 2006, but were reignited in 2013 when a former undercover police officer stated in an interview that, at the time, he had been pressured to find ways to "smear" and discredit the victim's family, in order to mute and deter public campaigning for better police responses to the case. Although further inquiries in 2012 by both Scotland Yard and the Independent Police Complaints Commission had ruled that there was no basis for further investigation, Home Secretary Theresa May ordered an independent inquiry by a prominent QC into undercover policing and corruption, which was described as "devastating" when published in 2014. An inquiry into whether members of the police force shielded the alleged killers was set up in October 2015..."

— Source: The Murder of Stephen Lawrence Wikipedia