A Year After The Hart Family Car Wreck, The Biological Mom Of 3 Kids Killed Speaks Out
Tammy Scheurich opens up about her children Markis, Hannah, and Abigail, who died when their adoptive parents drove them off a cliff.
On March 26, 2018, a German tourist called 911 to report a wrecked brown SUV on the shoreline beneath a cliff off Highway 1 in California. The vehicle was upside down and in the water, and, horrifically, it had been occupied.
Responders found the body of Jennifer Hart, 38, in the driver’s seat. With her were Sarah Hart, Jennifer’s 38-year-old wife; and four of the couple’s six adopted children: Markis, 19; Jeremiah, 14; Abigail, 14, and Ciera, 12. In time, searchers found the remains of Hannah Hart, 15, nearby. The body of Devonte Hart, also 15, has not yet been recovered, but he’s presumed dead.
Two moms and six kids — wiped out. Examiners later revealed that Jennifer Hart was drunk when she drove the family off a cliff and that Sarah and two of the children had taken significant amounts of Benadryl. Nobody appeared to have been wearing a seatbelt.
It remains unknown if Jennifer intentionally turned that family car ride into a fireball of murder and suicide, as well as what role, if any Sarah may have played in any kind of plot of that nature.
What is known is that this seemingly perfect family unit — a multicultural blend of two gay white women and six adopted Black children — had been under extreme duress for quite some time prior to the crash. People around the Harts had taken notice, repeatedly.
In fact, just two minutes after the tourist reported sighting the SUV, Sarah’s phone buzzed with a text from a coworker that read, “Are you ok?! Please let someone know… we are all freaking out here.”
More dramatically, local child-welfare agencies had visited the Harts multiple times to investigate claims of neglect and abuse throughout the previous years. Each time authorities got too close, though, Jennifer and Sarah moved the family to another state, where the kids continued to suffer while the moms appeared to put up a front of love, unity, and inclusion.
The car crash shattered far more than any illusions Jennifer and Sarah Hart might have hoped to create, of course. First and foremost, it took the lives of six children. Beyond that, is the unimaginable pain of Tammy Scheurich, the biological mother of Markis, Hannah, and Abigail Hart.
In the wake of the crash, no law-enforcement or other government agencies reached out to Tammy to inform her of what happened. She only learned of her children’s demise six months later, when a reporter from criminal justice publication The Appeal called her in October.
Upon hearing about the horror off Highway 1, Tammy made it clear, “Those are my children. This was not supposed to happen. I’m devastated, the news I’ve been reading and everything — it’s crushing to me. I’m trying to process all of this and trying to still live my life.”
“Those are my children. This was not supposed to happen. I’m devastated, the news I’ve been reading and everything — it’s crushing to me. I’m trying to process all of this and trying to still live my life.”
Scheurich surrendered custody of her children to the state in 2004. As a toddler, Tammy herself had been taken from her mother. At 13, Tammy was hospitalized for destructive behavior and threats of suicide, and she was ultimately diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and severe depression.
From age 17 onward, Tammy bounced around the streets, often living among homeless people. She had Markis when she was 18, and frequently left the baby for long periods with her grandparents in Houston. Hannah followed three years later.
In 2003, while Tammy was pregnant with Abigail, 18-month-old Hannah suffered numerous ant bites and acquired a potentially deadly staph infection. Child Protective Services opened an investigation into Tammy for medical neglect. Six months later, Hannah developed an upper respiratory infection that turned in to pneumonia. The situation turned extremely serious.
In February 2004, Tammy signed away her rights to her children, hoping a foster family in Texas would adopt them. That didn’t happen. Tammy never knew where her children ended up — until she received a terrible phone call last October.
As Tammy noted in the aftermath, “When I signed my rights over, my right to know anything went away.”
Talking to the reporter, Tammy also looked back on the last time she spent with her children. On a summer day in 2004, she took the kids to the zoo at Hermann Park in Houston and, afterward, they had a picnic.
As Tammy recalls, “I talked with them … Hannah didn’t understand and of course Abigail didn’t, she wasn’t even walking yet. I talked to Markis and told him that I wouldn’t be seeing him anymore, and that I loved him, and one day I would be seeing him again.”
No one at the time could have known how tragically wrong those words would turn out to be.
Read more: The Appeal, CBS News