"Cape Cod town riled by state bid to limit beach driving, a summer tradition" by Brian MacQuarrie Globe Staff March 30, 2018
DENNIS — Citing concerns over erosion and pollution, state regulators want to ban recreational vehicles from the firm, smooth sand that stretches for more than a quarter-mile into Cape Cod Bay, believed to be one of the last exposed tidal flats open to off-road traffic in Massachusetts.
Beach access is near and dear to Cape residents, and the surprising announcement that driving on the Crowes Pasture flats might be banned has drawn an outcry.
“They will not be happy until every human is kept within their designated ‘appropriate’ areas,” groused summer resident John Fitzgerald, a 43-year-old father of two children.
The town’s Conservation Commission, more accustomed to sleepy talk of easements and egress, drew a feisty, standing-room-only crowd to a recent meeting where the chairman seemed as irate as the residents.
“Will you please explain to me what the hell is going on?” chairman George Macdonald, who opposes the ban, asked in exasperation to loud applause.
For years, driving on the flats raised no concerns. The state does not have a blanket prohibition on the practice, and in 2004 the state Department of Conservation and Recreation wrote that it recognized the use of recreational off-road vehicles at Crowes Pasture, Macdonald said, but in December, the state Department of Environmental Protection notified town officials that the flats should not be used for off-road vehicles because they “may cause compaction of the resources there, and the area may also be impacted by fluids and other contaminants leaking or falling off,” said Ed Coletta, a department spokesman.
Macdonald said he was blindsided.
No sea life is endangered, because the flats are barren, he said, and other off-road vehicles are allowed to drive to small aquaculture plots on the flats.
“There had been a clear understanding that all of the activities that are currently allowed will be ongoing,” said Macdonald, who served as the town’s natural resources director for 33 years. “I’ve told the public many, many times, ‘Don’t worry.’ ”
At the recent meeting, which the Globe watched later on video, most commissioners questioned why change is needed at the Crowes Pasture Conservation Area, but even if the panel pushes back, the state can ban vehicles from the flats because of its authority over wetlands protection, according to Karen Johnson, the town’s natural resources director.
The dispute has prompted Dennis to seek legal advice on how to proceed.
All of that is so much bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo for the many families who clamber into Jeeps, four-wheel drive SUVs, and other off-road vehicles to meander along a narrow dirt track and then drive onto the beach near the mouth of Quivett Creek.
A maximum of 125 vehicles have been allowed on the beach and the flats in years past — a limit often reached by 10 a.m. on weekends — and the four hours spanning low tide have become something of a paradise for beachgoers seeking a different experience at water’s edge.
Coolers are hauled far out on the flats, umbrellas raised, kayaks unloaded, grills put to use, and fishing poles stuck in the sand — far from the crowds and bustle often associated with Cape Cod beaches.
For Fitzgerald, who has multiple sclerosis, the ability to drive on the flats has helped him reach an area that might otherwise be inaccessible.
“My disease has made it harder for me to walk any distances, especially on the beaches. Crowes Pasture has allowed me to continue going to the beach in an enjoyable way and share that experience with my 6- and 9-year-old children,” Fitzgerald wrote to the commission.
Justin Labdon, a resident of neighboring Brewster who cherishes motoring across the flats with his children and paddleboards, said he understands that the Cape’s beaches need to be protected, but he is convinced the cars pose no danger to the flats.
“I know there are a lot of environmental folks with their heart in the right places, but” a summer tradition hang[s] in the balance.
“Don’t ask me how this will end up,” Macdonald said, “because I don’t know.”
No offense but, I don't care.
Time to change lanes:
"Family’s SUV plunges off cliff, and death toll feared to be 8" by Matt Stevens and Louis Lucero II New York Times March 30, 2018
They were the portrait of a modern family: a married female couple and their six adopted children. And in 2014, they were thrust in front of the world for all to see.
Before going any further think about what the New York Times is saying there. The modern family is two lesbians adopting kids. I hardly know where to begin, and they are apparently not interested in a man's opinion -- and they thirst them in front of us all to see.
One of those children — Devonte Hart, who is black — was photographed hugging a white police sergeant in Portland, Ore., during a 2014 demonstration to protest police violence. In the photograph, Devonte clung to the officer, a mix of fear and anguish in his tearful eyes.
Is this even real, and if so, it's all agenda all the time, isn't it?
But the intense news media coverage that followed may have been the reason the Hart family decided to flee to Washington state, authorities said on Wednesday.
Then, the unthinkable: The family’s sport utility vehicle plunged off a 100-foot cliff in Northern California and was discovered on Monday — upside down, engulfed by the waves of the Pacific Ocean.
Both parents, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, were found dead inside the SUV; three of their children were discovered dead outside it; and the three other children, including Devonte, were still missing on Wednesday evening and feared dead, law enforcement officials said.
“We have every indication to believe that all six children were in there; however, only three bodies have been recovered,” said Sheriff Tom Allman of Mendocino County. “We have no evidence and no reason to believe this was an intentional act. Certainly people are wondering what caused this.”
Still, authorities did not discount the possibility that some of the children may have been staying with friends.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Allman conceded that many questions remain: When did the accident, as he called it, occur? Why did the SUV drive across at least 75 feet of dirt before plummeting into the ocean? Why weren’t there skid marks?
Allman said his office knew of no witnesses.
In the meantime, troubling reports about the family have emerged.
Washington state Child Protective Services learned on Friday of allegations of abuse against the Harts and tried to make contact with them that day, but no one answered when its employees visited their home, Norah West, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Social and Health Services, said on Wednesday.
West said that Child Protective Services had opened the inquiry because of “allegations of abuse or neglect in the home.”
She said the children’s agency made two subsequent attempts to establish contact with the family, visiting the home again on Monday and Tuesday, but was unsuccessful. A spokesman for the Clark County Sheriff’s Department in Washington state said he was not aware of any previous interactions with the family.
A neighbor of the Harts in Woodland, Wash., Dana DeKalb, told NBC affiliate KGW that Devonte, the child from the 2014 photograph, had recently begun venturing over to her home to ask for food, sometimes several times a day.
According to DeKalb, Devonte said his mothers sometimes withheld food from the children as punishment and didn’t allow them outside.
DeKalb said she was the one who brought the family to the attention of Child Protective Services. She told KGW that when an employee from the children’s agency visited on Friday, the Harts refused to answer the door, and that the family left only hours later. DeKalb did not immediately respond to a telephone message on Wednesday night.
Publicly available records show that Sarah Hart had lived in Minnesota for years before eventually moving to West Linn, Ore., and then Woodland, Wash. Court records show that a woman with her name and age was convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault in Minnesota in 2011.
Investigators identified the bodies of Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, of Woodland. By Wednesday, coroner’s officials had also identified the bodies of the three children: Markis, 19; Jeremiah , 14; and Abigail, 14. Authorities say the three missing children are Devonte, 15; Hannah, 16; and Sierra, 12.
In 2014, Devonte was photographed at a demonstration in Portland, one of many protests across the country of a grand jury’s decision not to bring criminal charges against Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Devonte, who was then 12, had been holding a “Free Hugs” sign, and Sergeant Bret Barnum approached him to ask why he was crying.
The photograph of the two embracing, which was first published by The Oregonian newspaper, ricocheted around social media and was featured by major news media outlets.
In an interview at the time with The Oregonian, Barnum said the boy told him that he was sad “about the protests, kind of about national events.”
“I just kind of sighed,” he recalled, “and said, ‘I’m sorry.’”
"SUV plunge off cliff may have been intentional" Associated Press April 03, 2018
MENDOCINO, Calif. — An SUV carrying a large family from Washington accelerated straight off a scenic California cliff, and authorities now say the deadly wreck may have been intentional.
The wreck was discovered last week, days after child welfare authorities began investigating whether the children were being neglected.
Information pulled from the vehicle’s software shows it was stopped at a flat pull-off area before it sped off the steep rocky face and plunged 100 feet, said Captain Greg Baarts of the California Highway Patrol.
Did a Thelma and Louise, huh?
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.
Five members of the Hart family were found dead. The search continued for three more children believed to have been in the vehicle when it went over a coastal overlook and landed on rocks in the Pacific Ocean below. The missing children may have been washed out to sea, authorities say.
‘‘This specific location is very difficult to search because the ocean currents and tides are strong, it’s unpredictable, and the murkiness of the water makes it difficult to see,’’ said Captain Greg Van Patten, a spokesman for the Mendocino County sheriff’s office.
The multiracial family of two married women, Sarah and Jennifer Hart, and their six adopted children often took spontaneous road trips to camp and hike and traveled to festivals and other events, offering hugs and promoting unity.
They were child abusers.
A passing motorist discovered the vehicle on March 26, three days after social service authorities in Washington state opened an investigation apparently prompted by a neighbor’s complaint that the children were being deprived of food. Authorities believe at least one felony was committed, but Van Patten declined to specify.
‘‘To the best of my knowledge, there was not a suicide note found at the residence,’’ said Baarts, who added that authorities have been interviewing friends and family members of the Harts.
The article has a cover-up quality to it, as if they don't want the image of the modern family tarnished or stained.
Want to see what the "modern family" looks like?
The victims were known as the Hart Tribe, a free-spirited family of two women and their six adopted children (TRISTAN FORTSCH/KATU NEWS VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS).
A free-spirited tribe, all victims.
"Tourists find a body in the ocean near where Hart family’s SUV plunged off a cliff" by Kristine Phillips The Washington Post April 08, 2018
Officials recovered a body floating near a Northern California cliff where a family’s SUV plunged 100 feet into the ocean, setting off a search for three missing children.
The discovery Saturday could be the first significant break nearly two weeks after investigators say the GMC Yukon was intentionally driven off the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. The vehicle was found upside down and partially submerged at the bottom of the cliff, and authorities recovered the bodies of two women and three of their six adopted children.
A couple vacationing near the coast spotted the body floating in the surf not far from the crash site on Saturday afternoon, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said. A third bystander pulled the body onto the beach. Authorities have yet to identify the body, which they described as that of an African-American female.
The two women in the crash were a married couple and had been under investigation by police and child services officials in the three states where they had lived. The deaths also have raised suspicions about the motives of the two women, both white, in adopting black children.
Jennifer Jean Hart - who was the driver - and her wife, Sarah Margaret Hart, both, 38, were found dead. Also killed were Markis, 19, Jeremiah, 14, and Abigail 14. Three other children, Devonte, 15, Hannah, 16, and Sierra, 12, were not found and are feared to be dead. A DNA test, which could take several weeks, will determine whether the body found on Saturday was either Hannah’s or Sierra’s, the sheriff’s office said.
A local fire department had patrolled the area an hour before the tourists spotted the body. The sheriff’s office said it’s likely that a storm passing through Northern California had caused the body to drift closer to the beach.
The California Highway Patrol revealed last week that the crash was not an accident, raising questions about the family’s history and what may have preceded the crash.
Greg Baarts, acting assistant chief of the California Highway Patrol’s northern division, said preliminary data from the SUV’s air bag module suggested that the vehicle probably came to a stop at a gravel pullout roughly 70 feet from the cliff before it accelerated and ‘‘went straight off the edge.’’ Investigators also did not find any signs of an accident, such as tire or skid marks, or evidence suggesting that Jennifer Hart had lost control of the SUV.
Authorities believe the family left their home in Woodland, Washington - leaving behind many of their belongings, including a pet and some chickens - and drove more than 500 miles south to California’s Mendocino County. The family was in Newport, Oregon, about 160 miles southwest of their home, on the morning of March 24, and kept traveling south until they reached Fort Bragg, California, in Mendocino County that evening, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The family’s 2003 GMC Yukon LX was found at the bottom of the cliff in nearby Westport, California, two days later.
Days before the family left Washington, child services officials there had begun investigating the Harts for ‘‘alleged abuse or neglect.’’ The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services said it tried to contact the Harts on March 23 after receiving a report of alleged abuse but was unable to reach them. The agency tried a second time on March 26, the day the SUV was found, and again the next day.
Since the crash, a troubling narrative of alleged abuse has emerged, dating several years to when the family was living in Minnesota. Court documents there show that one of the couple’s daughters had come to school with bruises on her back and stomach. Sarah Hart told police that she lost her temper and bent the girl over a bathtub and spanked her. She was convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault and received a 90-day suspended jail sentence after the 2011 incident. But according to the Oregonian, the girl, Abigail, told police that Jennifer Hart was the one who had hit her.
The Harts later moved to a suburb in Portland, Oregon. Child welfare officials in that state also were alerted of potential abuse or neglect, the Oregonian reported, citing police records. But nothing came of the investigation. The family then moved across the Columbia River to a small town in Washington state. There, the couple’s neighbors recalled unusual encounters with the Hart children.
Bruce DeKalb said one of the sons, Devonte, came to his home several times in March to ask for food and said his parents weren’t feeding him. The teen also asked him and his wife to call Child Protective Services, DeKalb told The Washington Post. Devonte captured the world’s attention in 2014, when he was photographed sobbing in the arms of a white police officer in Portland, where people had gathered in support of civil rights protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
A few months after the Harts next door in 2017, DeKalb said, one of the daughters, Hannah, pounded on his door at 1:30 a.m. She had jumped out of the family’s second-story window and ran through the woods toward the neighbor’s house. The 16-year-old, who DeKalb thought was only 7 and was missing some front teeth, was ‘‘rattled to the bone.’’
Officials said they have searched the family’s home, as well as the couple’s bank and credit card statements and phone records. They have yet to say whether they have found any clues of what may have led to the family’s deaths. They said they have not found suicide notes.