Metro Weekly

New documentary profiles lesbian mothers who drove children off cliff in murder-suicide

"Thread of Deceit" examines Jennifer and Sarah Hart, and the lead up to and fallout from a crash that claimed eight lives

hart, lesbian, mother, children, crash

The Hart family — Photo: Mendocino Country Sheriff’s Office

A new documentary will explore the story behind a 2018 tragedy in which lesbian mothers and their six children were killed when their SUV crashed over a cliff on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Thread of Deceit delves into the lives of Jennifer and Sarah Hart, who perished alongside their adopted children Markis, 19, Hannah, 16, Devonte, 15, Abigail and Jeremiah, both 14, and Sierra, 12, after their car plummeted more than 100 feet into the ocean off the coast of California.

The crash was later determined to be a murder-suicide by a coroner’s jury, after Jennifer Hart, who was driving, was found to be intoxicated at the time of the crash with a blood alcohol level over the state’s legal limit.

Read more: Lesbian mothers killed their six children in murder-suicide after driving off cliff, coroner rules

Sarah and at least three of the children had high levels of diphenhydramine — a component of Benadryl — in their system. Sarah’s levels were toxic, equivalent with at least 42 doses.

She had also searched on her phone for ways to end her family’s lives prior to the crash, including, “How easily can I overdose on over-the-counter medication?”

The crash occurred during a last-minute road trip the family had taken — from their home in Woodland, Washington, to Mendocino County, California — after multiple incidents and allegations of child abuse.

Days before the crash, the Harts’ children had been identified as “potential victims of abuse or neglect” by Child Protective Services, and Sarah Hart had previously pleaded guilty to domestic assault and malicious punishment of a child in 2011, after admitting that she had struck one of her daughters, leaving visible bruising.

Documentary Thread of Deceit: The Hart Family Tragedy, from Chris Kobin and Rachel Morgan, delves into the Harts’ backstory, the lead up to the crash, and the reaction and backlash that occurred as the facts surrounding the case were revealed.

Morgan said in a statement that she knew “a handful of people that were close to the family” prior to making the documentary.

“The thing that struck me the most, aside from it being an absolutely horrific, heartbreaking incident, is how quickly the story was scooped up and spit out in the mainstream and social media with very little compassion and human decency,” she said. “This is what motivated the documentary. A chance to tell the story without a motive aside from peeling away the layers of something that was unfathomable.

“It was important for us to go into the documentary unbiased and let the story tell itself in any way that it took form,” she said. “I felt it crucial to allow the friends who were silenced by harassment to be able to speak their point of view and I felt it was just as important to share the cold hard facts from the investigation and inquest without sugar-coating it.”

Thread of Deceit is available now on streaming platforms. Watch the trailer below:

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's online editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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