(CBS/CNN) — As the search continued Tuesday for three siblings and questions mounted over how the rest of their family ended up dead at the bottom of a California cliff, investigators hope a laptop and iPad yield clues, an affidavit shows.

Police seized the devices from the Woodland, Washington, home of Jennifer and Sarah Hart, on Thursday, according to court documents related to the search warrant.

In the affidavit requesting the search warrant, a Clark County, Washington, sheriff’s deputy says he is seeking evidence that will shed light on what happened to the family. That evidence could include travel itineraries, bank records, phone records, credit card receipts, hotel receipts or “handwritten or typed journals or notes related to travel, care for the children and or suicide note/s.”

It adds that the California Highway Patrol’s investigators believe “a felony has been committed.”

On Sunday, officials with the CHP said the crash may have been an intentional act.

Evidence from the crash

During a Sunday evening press conference, 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 shows 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.

Search continues for three missing children

The bodies of the mothers, both 38, were discovered inside their overturned SUV near a remote stretch of Highway 1 in Northern California on March 26. Jennifer Hart was in the driver’s seat, according to the search warrant affidavit.

s091747960 Driver Stopped SUV Before Speeding Straight Off Cliff With Family Inside, Investigators Say

The Hart family appears in this undated photo from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

 

Emergency responders found the bodies of three of their six adopted children — Markis, 19, and Jeremiah and Abigail, both 14 — outside the car, which landed upside down on the rocky shoreline below the cliff.

Their other children — Hannah, 16, Devonte, 15, and Sierra, 12 — are missing.

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 Capt. Greg Van Patten, a spokesman for the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

Though a police news release says the California Highway Patrol and Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office are continuing an “active search” for the missing children, the search warrant affidavit says they, too, may have been in the SUV.

The kids “have not been located and it is feared that they may have also been involved in the collision and presumed deceased,” the affidavit says.

Family’s troubling past

A passing motorist discovered the wreck Monday, March 26, three days after social service authorities opened an investigation apparently prompted by a neighbor’s complaint that the children were being deprived of food.

Bruce and Dana DeKalb, next-door neighbors of the Harts, said they called child protective services because 15-year-old Devonte had been coming over to their house almost every day for a week, asking for food.

Dana DeKalb said Devonte told her his parents were “punishing them by withholding food.” The boy asked her to leave food in a box by the fence for him, she said. She told The Oregonian/OregonLive that Devonte asked for things like tortillas and peanut butter and eventually was coming over three times a day.

Family friend Max Ribner took issue with the notion the wreck was something other than a tragic accident. The couple adopted many of their children from “hard backgrounds,” he said. “They transformed these kids’ lives.”

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten. CNN contributed to this report.)

Comments
  1. Yeah, they transformed their lives all right.

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