How The New Documentary About “The Hart Family” Dishonors The Murdered Children
There are no words to fully describe the utter disgust stemming from the revolting experience of sitting through nearly an hour of the new documentary, A Thread of Deceit: The Hart Family Tragedy, that was produced by Rachel Morgan and Chris Kobin of 1091 Media, and helmed by director Jan Sonnenmair.
The finished product is currently available for renting on Amazon Prime, and Lord knows that I wish I could get that $3.99 back!
But there was no way to resist the temptation of guaranteed wasted time with added headache of all-consuming rage.
It’s been two years since that fateful day back in March 2018, when the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office was called to the devastating crime scene that was initially classified as a horrific accident. It was quickly revealed that the two dead white women had made a secret pact to drive their jeep off a scenic cliff on the Pacific Coast Highway with six Black and Brown kids in the back seat.
The two adoptive parents had taken extra steps to cruelly drug the ill-fated passengers aged 12 to 16, prior to the plotted trip, in order to be sure that they would be unconscious during the terrifying plunge to the bottom.
In addition to the bodies of murderers Jennifer and Sarah Hart, that were found inside the crushed, overturned vehicle, the bodies of their young victims Hannah, 16, Markis, 19, Jeremiah, 14, Abigail, 14, and Ciera, 12, were found nearby the wreckage.
15-year-old Devonte, who became a viral sensation thanks to the poignant photo dubbed “the hug ‘round the the world” that depicts a 12-year-old Black boy with tear-stained cheeks, clinging to a white police officer at the 2014 Ferguson protests was missing from the crash site.
His body was never recovered, and he was officially declared dead with a certificate that was signed on April 3, 2019.
The scathingly brutal deaths of six children of color, who were discarded and betrayed by an irretrievably broken system, that’s notoriously set up to toss away the vulnerable and targeted, who unfairly suffer for their devalued status, serves as the dire reminder of the deadliness of the “white savior” complex.
Almost immediately after the tragic news of the grim discovery on Highway 1 began to circulate, there were an army of questions about the backstory of the two white women who were repeatedly accused of abusing their adoptive kids of color, with pending cases trailing them each time the “family” left one state for another.
Sarah Hart was the only one who pled guilty for assault in 2011 and was sentenced to one year of community service.
Jennifer and Sarah Hart and their brood had previously lived in Minnesota and Oregon before settling in Woodland, WA in 2017.
Their neighbors, the DeKalb family, would end up playing a vital role in initiating an investigation against the couple, following a number of incidents that sparked concern for the children they rarely saw — despite close proximity.
There was that time when Hannah escaped from her bedroom window and showed up at the home of the DeKalbs, visibly shaken and begging not to be returned to her “parents.”
“Don’t make me go back! They’re racists and they abuse us!”
Both Jennifer and Sarah Hart retrieved the young girl, and later offered an explanation for Hannah’s hysterics. Jennifer took the lead by blaming Hannah’s “lies” on her bleak background, and the bipolar biological mother who abandoned her child. She went as far as to call the adopted children “drug babies” who were prone to “acting out.”
Devonte also paid desperate visits to the DeKalbs to beg for food. He asked them not to tell Jennifer Hart, and confirmed that his captors were starving him and the other children as a form of punishment. He described episodes of periodic abuse.
Child Protective Services was notified, which initiated the need to make contact with the Hart women three days before they killed themselves and murdered those poor kids, and once more a day after the fatal crash.
The main reason why the documentary, A Thread of Deceit: The Hart Family Tragedy woefully dishonors the dead Black and Brown children is mainly due to the scanty information about the two white women who committed the crime.
The film is obviously geared towards the fragile conscience of white viewers, who need the reassurance of their sainthood when it comes to selflessly offering their services to the Black and Brown lives that won’t survive without those good deeds.
All we know about Jennifer and Sarah Hart, who were both 39 at the time of their deaths is that they attended the same university after transferring from different institutions. Their relationship began while they were still enrolled students, and they both majored in elementary education.
They at some point fostered a 15-year-old girl, but that arrangement apparently didn’t work out. The couple dropped the girl off at a therapist office and never looked back.
Not long after, they were awarded custody of siblings Abigail, Hannah and Markis after the biological parents had their parental rights revoked by a court in Harris County, Texas.
In the early summer of 2008, the Hart women added three more kids to their “family,” Ciera, Devonte, and Jeremiah, who were all born in Houston, Texas.
They each had different fathers and their biological mother was allegedly hooked on crack cocaine, and was therefore deemed unfit to care for them. Their aunt was granted custody with the mandate of keeping them away from their mother. But when those rules were broken, the aunt had to relinquish her rights, and her attempt to seek permanent custody was rejected by the courts.
Once Jennifer and Sarah Hart claimed all three kids, Ciera became “Sierra.”
A Thread of Deceit is an entangled mess that will leave you even more befuddled than you were before the unfortunate decision to search for what can’t be found.
Director Sonnenmair basically did little to no research to unearth the pertinent details surrounding how these two women were able to seamlessly bamboozle the system by utilizing the currency of whiteness, the tricks of changing residency, and adhering to a reclusive lifestyle.
The interviews with so-called “friends” and acquaintances merely emphasizes what folks like myself already knew through relentless digging. We are aware about how this couple shamelessly paraded a staged faux-family, that was meant to evoke the modernized visuals of “wokeness.”
Jennifer Hart was evidently designated the task of routinely populating Facebook with misleading images that showcased a vibrant, well-adjusted, mixed household, as a way to deflect from the threatening and abusive environment that she and her partner fostered.
The handful of selected interviewees made interesting references to the infamous photo of Devonte embracing the cop, that expectedly garnered the Hart women and their hostages a ton of publicity.
They all asserted that the pressure that came from the newfound celebrity cast a harsh spotlight and invited cyberbullies and trolls to mock and condemn the notion of two white women parenting Black and Brown children for attention.
This is where the ill-advised documentary takes a nosedive, as viewers are coerced into believing that Jennifer and Sarah Hart were victims themselves due to how the cruel online comments on social media, targeting their exposed “family” set up.
Somehow it was all too much and may have caused them to spiral out of control.
Of course there’s no way of knowing if this is true, and we can’t reasonably take the heartfelt statements of a few witnesses who didn’t actually witness enough to make those assumptions.
And the words of wisdom from a Northern-California based “psychiatrist and clinical associate professor of psychiatry” at Stanford University, Dr. Octavio Choi, who was recruited to provide feedback on how developing psychosis can be shrouded in the veil of deceit before the fatal explosion isn’t really much of eye-opener.
There’s very little doubt based on the outline of information at our disposal that Jennifer and Sarah Hart were absolutely not in any way shape or form suitable for parenting at the most basic level.
Their white privilege proved to be the undoing for their young, innocent victims because it made them viable in the eyes of the law, and permitted the devious couple to gain access to beefy resources that they accrued as custodians of six children of color.
The filmmaker and pair of producers did a horrendous job with an incoherent offering, that didn’t come close to adequately examining the profound injustice that Markis, Abigail, Hannah, Jeremiah, Ciera, and Devonte suffered at the hands of two white women, who mercilessly exploited them to fulfill their twisted fantasies.
The assembly of empathetic “friends,” neighbors, and the professional assessment from the good doctor, along with testimonies from investigators associated with case that was ruled a murder-suicide serves as the collective manual with a lot of empty pages
While staring at the end credits that features a distasteful collage of frolicking Black and Brown kids sharing those spaces with the two smiling white women who hadn’t yet done the unfathomable, the intense rage that overwhelmed proceeded to curse out the audacity of whiteness in all its lethal versions.
It’s infuriating and definitely telling that the filmmakers went out of their way to cite Black Lives Matter as one of the possible culprits of what added to the professed depression and disillusionment that took hold of Jennifer and Sarah Hart, based on baseless accusations of how reps of the movement vehemently disapproved of their living situation.
Even if those allegations are true it still in no way justifies the murderous actions of two women who schemed the system that was outfitted to stroke their privilege.
A Thread of Deceit makes the unforgivable mistake of presenting “The Hart Family” as a “family” when that was not the case. Additionally, viewers are left wondering about the fundamental pending issues pertaining to the background of the two women who are guilty of vehicular manslaughter.
There are no family members or contacts from college on either side, who can shed light on how and why Jennifer and Sarah Hart could’ve potentially enabled each other into building a household filled with Black and Brown children that they would later sentence to death without the option of a rescue.
At the end of the day, we just have the diluted, tasteless version of a real-life tragic state of affairs, that white producers curated for without any loyalty to the real victims, who have been murdered all over again.
I truly believe there will be a future project in the works, that will thoroughly and respectfully provide the level of care and dedication that Markis, Abigail, Hannah, Jeremiah, Ciera, and Devonte earned in life and death.
The astute attention to detail can only come from a Black filmmaker, who will recognize the bullshit from a mile away.
You can’t make a documentary about the hideous streak of abusiveness that culminated in the violent end to human lives, and inexplicably leave out the vital parts about who these killers were, and how being white women hiding behind the infatuated symbolism as caretakers of non-white kids, armed them with the absolute power to get away with it.
The murder of those six beautiful children must be avenged, and the true story has to be told to vindicate the awful deceit of a film that recklessly absolved the killers of their sins.
Until then, please don’t do what I shouldn’t have done. I watched the shit and threw up, so you don’t have to.