MENDOCINO COUNTY (CBS SF) – DNA analysis has identified a body found ten days ago in the Pacific Ocean near where an SUV plunged off a cliff last month as one of the members the Washington family killed in the crash, according to authorities.

According to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, on April 7, the body of what appeared to be a young African-American woman was recovered in the Pacific Ocean surf in the area of Juan Creek and Highway 1 in Westport, California.

The body was thought to be that of one of the missing children of the Hart family, whose SUV was discovered at the bottom of a scenic Mendocino County cliff off of Highway 1 on March 26.

The 100-foot drop killed the two women — Sarah and Jennifer Hart, both 39 — and their children Markis Hart, 19; Jeremiah Hart, 14; and Abigail Hart, 14. Hannah Hart, 16; Devonte Hart, 15; and Sierra Hart, 12, remain missing.

Due to the condition of the body, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Division requested the assistance of the California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services Richmond DNA laboratory in identifying the body.

On Tuesday, the Coroner’s Division was notified the Richmond DNA laboratory identified the body from DNA analysis as being Ciera Hart, a missing member of the Hart family.

Through an ongoing examination of legal documents, the Coroner’s Division determined the girl’s legal first name to be spelled “Ciera” and not Sierra as previously released.

The autopsy results including blood alcohol and toxicology analysis for Ciera were still pending.

Also on Tuesday, the FBI released missing posters for the two children who have not been accounted for since the crash. The two posters indicate that 15-year-old Devonte Hart and 16-year-old Hannah Hart could still be alive and traveling together.

Early in the investigation into the fatal crash, authorities announced that it appeared the crash may have been intentional.

On April 1, CHP officials said evidence showed that the SUV carrying the family had come to a complete stop before accelerating off the cliff.

Capt. Greg Baarts with the CHP Northern Division says information pulled from the SUV’s software showed the vehicle was stopped at the highway pullout about 70 feet from the edge before driving straight on, speeding off the steep rocky face and plunging 100 feet and plunging off the cliff.

Baarts said the electronic information combined with the lack of skid marks or signs the driver braked led authorities to believe the crash was purposeful.

Last week, CHP announced that Jennifer Hart, who was behind the wheel at the time of the crash, had an alcohol level of 0.102. California drivers are considered drunk with a level of 0.08 or higher.

Toxicology tests also found that Sarah Hart and two of their children had “a significant amount” of an ingredient commonly found in the allergy drug Benadryl, which can make people sleepy. Toxicology results for a third child killed are still pending, California Highway Patrol Capt. Bruce Carpenter said.

The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said future press releases regarding the case will only be disseminated when significant developments occur or when large scale search and rescue operations are scheduled.

© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments (3)
  1. Oh Lord why must we still hear about this nonsense story.
    There is real world news that actually matters to us and not some loser family that went over a cliff.

  2. Is it Sierra or Ciera? You have this person’s name spelled differently in your article.

    1. You expect the idiots who call themselves reporters to actually be consistent in their writing? LOL…that would require actually hiring people who have a brain and that costs money. Money that would then not be available to pay the dopes in upper management.

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