California woman who drove family off cliff was drunk: sheriff

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Recovered vehicle debris and personal items confirm that an SUV seen plunging into a storm-swollen Northern California river belonged to a family that disappeared last week in the same county as the Hart family, authorities said Thursday.

The search along the south fork of the Eel River is north of where another search has been going on along the Mendocino County coast for members of a family of eight whose SUV plunged off a towering ocean bluff and into the surf line below. The crash happened just days after authorities in Washington state opened an investigation following allegations the children were being neglected. California drivers are considered drunk with a level of 0.08 or higher.

Her wife, Sarah Hart, had a significant amount of Benadryl in her system, as did two of the children, police said.

Carpenter said none of the car's occupants were wearing seatbelts.

This June, 2014, file photo shows some of the Hart family at the annual celebration of "The Goonies" movie in Astoria, Ore.

The finding from toxicology tests performed on the body of Jennifer Jean Hart marked the latest clue divulged by investigators seeking to unravel the fate of the woman, her wife and their six adopted children.

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Authorities have said that data from the vehicle's software suggested the crash was deliberate, though the California Highway Patrol has not concluded why the vehicle went off an ocean overlook on a rugged part of coastline.

Last August, soon after the Harts moved into their rural home, neighbors Bruce and Dana DeKalb said a child rang their doorbell, seeking sanctuary from abuse. The family was last heard from in the town of Klamath, Del Norte County, on April 5. Naselle is near U.S. Highway 101, a popular, scenic route along the coast.

A search team found the body about 7 miles south of where the family's SUV fell into the rain-swollen Eel River last week, Allman told a news conference in the community of Leggett.

Mothers Sarah and Jen, both 38, died, as well as their children Markis, 19, Abigail, 14, and Jeremiah, 14. Hannah Hart, the third of the siblings adopted from Colorado County, was still missing Wednesday afternoon, along with Devonte and Sierra Hart, two siblings adopted by the family in Harris County in 2009.

Long before the crash, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty in 2011 to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota over what she said was a spanking given to one of her children. Alexandra Argyropoulos, who told The Associated Press previously that she contacted OR child welfare officials, said in an email Friday that Jennifer Hart ran the household "like a regimented boot camp".

The Harts, who immersed their children in alternative culture, left many friends and acquaintances with the impression of a happy family that emphasized love, unity and music.

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