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In March 2016, two white moms and their six black kids drive off a California cliff. What are they running from? 
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TRANSCRIPT

00:00:01if you've ever wondered how the world might end and my new podcast is right up your alley it's called the end of the world with Josh Clark and it's about the very real ways that humans might accidentally wipe ourselves out in the next century or two might it
00:00:15be artificial intelligence or a haphazard physics experiment or perhaps an altar virus that escapes from a lamp who knows the one thing that sure is ignoring the risks won't make them go away so come listen to the end of the world with Josh Clark you can find it
00:00:30on apple podcast the I heart radio at or wherever you find your podcast the cliff is the kind of place Jennifer Hart would have loved to photograph for kids located two hundred miles north of San Francisco it has a green edge bluff right off of California's highway one
00:00:54with a gravel path leading to a dramatic one hundred foot drop into the Pacific on other trips Jenin her wife Sarah might have pulled to the side of the road and had their brood line up as they often did backs to the camera hands raised in peace signs
00:01:10a Technicolor sunset framing their silhouettes they were Marquess nineteen Hannah sixteen divine tae fifteen Abigail and Jeremiah both fourteen and Sierra twelfth two sets of biological siblings both black adopted by two white mom's a beautiful family by most accounts friends call them the heart tribe this trip wouldn't
00:01:36be like the others the heart tried to to places like bliss Idaho or Zion national park in Utah investigators have been desperate to figure out how that family flew off that cliff in California and whether it was on purpose I was at the scene two days ago there
00:01:55were no skid marks we have no evidence and no reason to believe that this was an intentional act certainly people are wondering what caused this on March twenty sixth two thousand eighteen a German tourist spotted the family's two thousand three GMC Yukon XL belly up on the rocks
00:02:16below the picturesque Mendocino cliff the car plummeted more than a hundred feet here's what we know happened in the days leading up to the crash on March twenty fourth at three AM serwis co workers at Kohl's where she worked as an assistant manager received a text from Sarah
00:02:35saying she was too sick to open the store that morning that same morning the hearts next door neighbors Bruce and denied to cal noticed that the Yukon was no longer in their driveway and that the bright red kayak typically sat on top of it had been removed cinder
00:02:51blocks litter the driveway suggesting that the family had crashed into a retaining wall in their rush to leave on March twenty fifth at eight OO five AM a surveillance camera in a Fort Bragg Safeway captured Jan I classes and ill fitting gray hoodie paying twenty dollars an eight
00:03:09cents in cash for groceries she bought the nano's saltine and chef boy R. Dee ravioli and used a club card for discounts friend said she looks twenty five pounds heavier than they'd ever seen her on March twenty six at one twelve PM serwis co worker Cheryl heart no
00:03:31relation called nine one one asking for a welfare check on her friend thanks for calling out there on the welfare system okay and hurried checking on their part the reason that we're checking on our %HESITATION he sent out a clock in the morning on Saturday morning stating that
00:03:51he was but over the border in a hold of her house for her or is seeing her sense that judge or her white ones okay initially say when he says respect that you say what was going on %HESITATION yes is not able to come out and go to
00:04:13work go to the doctor arm I checked the hospitals have any record of %HESITATION I thank her for and just the two of them of their four children any non medical history aware now she has been sick records coal okay has she been suicidal at all or none
00:04:42the less the call you just heard came several hours too late early the morning of March twenty sixth rescue workers repel down the cliff where they lifted the dead bodies of three children later identified as Marcus Abigail and Jeremiah Hart and spotted two more there in the back
00:05:02and Jan in the driver seat the corner found an ingredient commonly used an allergy medicines like manager in the bodies of Sarah into the kids Jen's blood alcohol content was over the legal limit no one had been wearing seatbelts the car's computer revealed that Janet stopped on a
00:05:21pull out some seventy feet from the cliff moments before the free fall she then turned it off the ledge ten days later the county sheriff issued a statement about the gruesome incident I'm to the point where I no longer I'm calling this an accident I'm calling it a
00:05:38crime from glamour and howstuffworks this is broken hearts I'm Justin Harmon and I'm lazy can together we've been looking into the story for the past six months and what has emerged as one of the most complex and compelling stories of abuse neglect privilege and confusion in the digital
00:06:10age we've ever encountered one astounding element of this story is that this family the heart tribe didn't just burst into the news after the horrific crash over the years they had somehow managed to be the center of multiple news events remember that picture of the young black boy
00:06:26in a blue fedora embracing a white cop in riot gear at a black lives matter rally in two thousand fourteen and the debate that ensued over whether it was a symbolic moment of racial healing or semi stage theater that was divine take heart the third oldest of the
00:06:44heart kids devante was a trumpet player who love to brush his dog can yeah he had big teeth and big eyes his whole face looked like a smile he often wore a free hugs sign around his neck she was an extrovert and and and that photo from the
00:07:05rally was taken in two thousand fourteen nearly four years before the family staff and that wasn't the only time the heart found themselves in the spotlight but we'll get into that later a few weeks ago our producer Jason asked us what drew us to the story in the
00:07:26first place our answers were different I was on a ten day road trip with my family one afternoon after spending about nine hours in the car with my three kids who are seventeen fourteen and eleven I looked at the New York times homepage and I read a story
00:07:49about the heart I was really surprised by how quickly it fell out of the news there weren't that many stories that sent me down a rabbit hole of wondering what had happened a glamour morning meetings we discussed not only what we're working on currently but what stories are
00:08:05sort of picking our interest and Liz brought up this story that I had almost Syrtis Isley clicked on the night before something about the picture I saw these two women white very attractive sort of every day looking nothing seem sinister about them in six really adorable I mean
00:08:28the kids just looked so happy and so to have that juxtaposed with such an egregious storyline and headline I was instantly captivated by what could have driven these women to do such a thing how does someone get to a place where they're willing to choose not only a
00:08:45path for yourself but that of six young people I am a mother of a two year old I can't imagine ever being pushed to the brink that way but at the same time it is a relatable feeling as a mother as a woman to feel trapped by the
00:09:01choices you make the story is so complex in fact that we brought on Lawrence Miley a San Francisco based investigative reporter to help us figure out what really happened in the days months and years leading up to the crash you'll hear from Lauren she's the intrepid interviewer with
00:09:17a throaty chuckle in the Iowa accent over the course of this cross country journey that leads us from South Dakota to Minnesota to Oregon Washington and ultimately a cliff in California you'll also meet a variety of people who knew the hearts or thought they did enter get an
00:09:35exclusive look into a case that left six people dead two missing and a nation puzzled over the perfect family they never know but the most important voices in this podcast belong to the people we couldn't interview the heart kids Marquez Hannah divine tae Abigail Jeremiah and Sierra Hannah
00:09:57in devante were not found in the car that day in March and their bodies have not yet surfaced at the crash site since their whereabouts have yet to be located some fear they were killed before the plunge others speculate they escaped in the Nick of time back in
00:10:12may we send Lauren to woodland Washington to meet with a number stick help the hearts next door neighbors the family shared a driveway take the fork to the left and you had the dekalb spread split level take the one to the right and drive down a little bit
00:10:26and you're at the hearts this is Lauren I got out of my car enfiladed landed in a postcard of the Pacific Northwest it seems like the decals property could be swallowed up by nature at any moment their house is blanketed by pine trees in rhododendron bushes just this
00:10:44morning Tatian I driven up from Portland for about an hour on I five which continues on up to Seattle I took an exit and then drove along this twisty road with trees overhead for five minutes even though this is huge freeway just minutes away by the time you
00:10:59get to the dekalb's it feels really remote you move out here to be close to nature not people did agree to me at the door she's in her late fifties and has short curly hair she's a talker and always wears a smartwatch to tracker daily stops two decades
00:11:17ago Sheehan Bruce moved from a California cul de sac to this spot in the foothills of the cascades where you can see clear to mount Saint Helens Bruce is about six feet tall he's more laid back he's chatting to but when together let's data do it hawking thirty
00:11:33days usually include some beating back of The Washington wild that a venturing out on jet ski or kayak that's September the retirement good life was interrupted when a small frightened girl wrapped in a fleece blanket rang the doorbell at one thirty in the morning doorbell rang and then
00:11:52I went to the front door here's this girl standing there on a blanket wrapped around her she comes told me in the house and %HESITATION and yelling for day in that you know Hey wait come help me and %HESITATION she and up the stairs on our own she
00:12:12bolted upstairs pounced on me that's when I woke up thinking who are you more to come from I came down here was talking sure and trying to get her to calm down to understand what was going on and she was just frantic and begging you know that takes
00:12:35me to Seattle don't make me go back there there are racists their abusive you know we're just not going all you know first asked her well what do you mean and she's like well they want that's what about and he was like well I've been what about trying
00:12:59to think %HESITATION you know and in the meantime I'm trying to figure out where she came from there's we don't know she lives next door I noticed that the whole family was outside looking for with flashlights and she's freaking out and like you know what they're coming I
00:13:19have to figure this out just stay put they came in and they just kind of pushed their way into certain Jennifer dad and they you know started going around looking through the house went up to the bedroom did you invite the family to go into a house now
00:13:41and we you know it's one thirty in the morning and you're freaking out Hannah had crouched down between my bed and dresser in this little spot and she was like in the fetal position and when they just when it ends in Serra pro star person Hannah and she
00:14:01was like no you know that's I said well he's back at give her some space where you guys are freaking around freaking out was just back at at about that time Jennifer kind of grab Serret sent all deal with this you go down back downstairs with the kids
00:14:25so Jennifer started talking during you know calming %HESITATION and being all nice and stuff so I thought okay I'm gonna give him a minute and so I left the room actually and then they came back downstairs and they when they start come back downstairs Jennifer told sorry you
00:14:48need to take the kids or go hand is having a problem with her Big Brother right now we were like right her issue was her brother at all what what do you mean he so that kind of was a little bit weird but you know I I don't
00:15:06know so they sat there saying you know you need to just tell these people you're sorry yes ma'am and you need to explain to him you just had a really bad week yes ma'am and she just constantly was looking at Jennifer never even talked to as it is
00:15:23just robot and so they ended up leaving now it's like two thirty in the morning they're trying to figure out what wow what what's really going on here you know and I guess it was just beyond our imagination for a variety of reasons the dekalb's wouldn't call that
00:15:51Ortiz until nearly six months after the incident but that didn't stop her eighty year old dad whom she told about the event from getting involved on November eighteenth twenty seventeen nearly three months after Hannah visited in the middle of the night Dana's dad Steve placed a call to
00:16:08nine one one there's some kids that I feel is being highly abused what's the address how line okay I'm gonna give you the address of my daughter's house because it's right next door you know if you're going up the road %HESITATION her house it's a house on the
00:16:22right okay and what's going on there will they help blocks will run with that part doesn't matter under your new hearing what the other night a little girls jumped out of the second story window on the roof and then down on the ground and ran to my daughter
00:16:37and this is like two in the morning but again I'm gonna help for help for them when they came looking for she was taken my daughter not to let him know she was there and then eventually with my son a log let him know he doesn't want to
00:16:51get involved but the more I sit on and I just can't live with it somebody's got an older truck and you know how old was the little kid that that that around your daughter's house box twelve years old thirteen and then she at all for the kids come
00:17:05back later into saying everything was okay and they're all standing at attention like they were just scared to death and I think there's something very serious going on there from Texas the kids might even be kidnapped in in basically why so %HESITATION laws like most people they don't
00:17:25want to get involved in so he's he's on my daughter out of it since he's told me about it I just can't live with it on very concerned for these kids someone from the county sheriff's office called the dekalb's to ask whether there been more incidents Indian explain
00:17:41what you observed since that night the kids next door were almost always indoors she remembers being told he is not a legal to keep kids inside on August seventh twenty eighteen a little less than a year after her dad called I contacted county sergeant Brent what L. over
00:17:58the phone so Dana's dad called down here and reported that Dana's neighbor child come over in the middle of the night and the deputy contacted dad in also contacted Dana and when the deputy talk to Dana there was no indication that there's any ongoing issues or anything like
00:18:21that what I wasn't the one who talked with Dana but the department had done an internal review of how they handle their interactions with Tina and her dad wired and documented that he talked with Dana and they had discussed his or anything over there sense it's happened anything
00:18:41concerning and Dana basically set out you know we never see him see about for us to go up and knock on the door we would need something a little bit more people have rights in this country and the stadium and just because your neighbor in up to something
00:19:00a little bit more currents and some other factors again we don't know what happens behind closed doors so just because the kids are playing outside around outside or keynote much that'd monks itself is not the trigger a red flag hindsight being twenty twenty who knows but in others
00:19:25you know the deputy and Dana had a conversation and and the deputy was okay with not going up and knocking on the door with new evidence or national women's two thousand four in a tiny Ozark town a young woman named Rebecca gold was brutally murdered nearly fifteen years
00:19:57later her killer is still on the loose suspect work everywhere so we can already talked it's just really surreal walking around like I don't mention someone's I left Arkansas became an investigator now I'm coming back with my team to finally get justice for back yeah depressed I'm Catherine
00:20:34this is Helen gone catch you episodes by subscribing apple podcast or on the I heart radio out over every listen to podcasts but what really went on behind the white door in that baby blue split level who are these women and how did they come to adopt six
00:20:59children two sets of three black siblings their story starts in small town South Dakota where Sarah gambler in Jan heart both grew up a photo of five year old Jan shows her dressed up in a roughly blue dress with knee high white Sox outside a cornflower blue home
00:21:18with astro turf covered stairs extremely rare fine she wrote on Facebook in may of two thousand sixteen me an address the women met when they were twenty years old as undergraduates at northern state university in Aberdeen South Dakota was nineteen ninety nine American pie was the biggest thing
00:21:41at the box office JFK junior had just been found dead off the coast of Martha's vineyard still strapped into the pilot's seat if his clean live in la vida loca was the biggest thing on the radio but it would be more than a decade before Ricky Martin would
00:21:56publicly come out as gay at Aberdeen Serra would go on to earn her degree in education Jan never graduated later Jen would describe on Facebook how she called Serra her friend %HESITATION her roommate once they did come out as a couple however the midwestern mindset she wrote was
00:22:18relentlessly unforgiving the para ventrally moved to Alexandria Minnesota a lake town famous for big Oley a twenty five foot tall statue of a Viking that was built for the sixty four world's fair burgers where the women worked Jan in the juniors department Serra as a department manager was
00:22:36the biggest store at Viking mill plaza a one level strip mall located off of route twenty nine Chad was probably the one I met first she was taller than me she had like they're in bright red hair I remember her feeling so much older than she actually why
00:22:58don't like she probably was twenty six or twenty seven at the time and she was con and an extra and intimidating I immediately did not feel like I was on the same level as her this is Jordan Smith Jordan worked with Jen and Sarah in the summer of
00:23:20two thousand four at Herberger's we asked Lauren to find out what they were like most people who knew the women back then noted their differences Jan was more colorful outgoing abrasive that will be the Minnesota term for it Smith says Serra could be more emotional and stressed but
00:23:39she lovingly kept the picture of her in Jan cuddling on our office desk when I talk to Jordan she remember the time Jan complained about Americans nipples being sexist Jan hall the manic into a back room at Herberger's and manually cut them off with a hacksaw she called
00:23:55the manager in the back you do it she wasn't doing it like on the floor %HESITATION it was probably her relationship with their %HESITATION that like gave her you know that kind of like I can do that as a couple they are very discreet it took me almost
00:24:12nine months to realize they were a couple I mean we're talking real world mentor program like the Bible belt from Minnesota that Alexandria in two thousand four Alexandria Minnesota a town located one hundred and thirty two miles northwest of Minneapolis had a population of around eleven thousand it
00:24:34was a bit more progressive than rural South Dakota but it wasn't exactly the most tolerant of places either as Jordan recalls it went pretty usual to get called a guy or a bag and %HESITATION your game in everything negative it may not seem not long ago but two
00:24:53thousand four was a very different time socially especially in the rural Midwest you could kind of describe the mentality as well don't ask don't tell Jordan identifies as queer now but back then it wasn't so easy to be out Aaron John credit they were possibly one knows I
00:25:14rare handful of %HESITATION band and out %HESITATION homosexual couples in the area years later in a Facebook post Jen would recall the realities of being a gay woman living in the unforgiving and on accepting Midwest the truth of our love is clouded with fear she wrote fear of
00:25:33rejection from family and friends fear of being unwanted unloved not being able to get a job fear of acts of violence fear of not being able to have a family fear of walking through this life alone with her love keeping it a secret the heart would eventually find
00:25:55a community over the years they became regulars at transformational festivals days long socially conscious mashups of music yoga dance and creative costumes the kids would join too often dressed in colorful costumes and caring motivational signs and interacting with the musical acts in one YouTube clip we see divine
00:26:18today at the beloved festival an annual gathering dedicated to what its website describes as vulnerability belonging and liberation in the clip a large group of adults dressed in tie dye and bucket hats congregate around the musician save your right as he plucks a guitar placed across his lap
00:26:40write a short less his long blond hair is pulled back with the headband its eyes are closed about eight minutes into the song he notices someone in the crowd and beckons him to the stage Dante dressing is deeper costume a free hugs sign around his neck and the
00:26:58word love it shaved into his head approaches the musician and gives him a hug their tears in his eyes the embrace lasted over a minute you tomorrow on the whole moment is a lot but it was also at these festivals that friends exhibit Lomax a Portland based photographer
00:27:43first encounter Jenin Serra in twenty thirteen after the news the crash broke Lomax like so many of the people in the hearts inner circle took to social media to defend the women she knew they were that really bright kind of puzzles there was pretty hard to miss them
00:27:59any event that that I was at war they were if I had a camera this course the tractor to that I was inspired by them they gave me hope consider them like the heart tried it was just sort of like a natural term that would kind of come
00:28:14out when you see them showing up at places like there's a hard in that term like Chad has been thrown around a lot in that because there's some sort of like returning like pre indigenization and like these interesting terminologies there's even a book that this other photographer put
00:28:33out called tribal revival and it's all about like the people from all these different festivals so beloved is just one of many of these kind of festivals that sort of thing under the umbrella of what would be considered transformational festivals that have this very similar kind of the
00:28:51only gas %HESITATION experimental community different ways of coming together and and being supportive rather than competitive looking a little deeper and understanding what that hospitals kind of a part of me well maybe give a little bit of context for why there were so many people quick to kinda
00:29:09like jump up and say like wait a minute you guys have the story wrong zippy Lomax in Jan especially became close often communicating over DM and social media city shared with us over three hundred of Jen's Facebook posts often accompanied by long well written captions many of which
00:29:27served as a key hole into who these women and who the six kids were photos of Abigail and divine day eating breakfast with hens perched on their heads vegetarian chicken and waffles the caption reads devante Jeremih and Sierra painting on the living room floor many Jackson Pollock's all
00:29:47six kids grinning with the kindness is contagious sign redwood nation is about to get blasted with kindness Jen wrote each post reaffirms the same story line to moms and their rehabilitated kids thriving against all odds but as we've had to remind ourselves of the course of digging into
00:30:05the story Jenna Hart who is far more active on social media that her wife Sarah isn't the most reliable narrator this is something zippy and many friends of the hearts struggle with the B. has received a lot of messages from people who once knew the family but maybe
00:30:20lost touch over the years it's a nice counter she says to the loads of hate mail she received like this letter she got two months after the crash from a high school friend of chance with the subject line your heart subject she just said your heart as a
00:30:36core I wanted to reach out to you after all this heart story broke I could sense that you're a beautiful soul with good intentions caught defending some people you thinking now I knew Sir and John from college and I too was in disbelief I was not even brave
00:30:51enough to admit knowing them so I was proud of me for stepping out there and speaking up the people I knew in college were not capable of this act although looking back now it's clear there were warning signs from Jan and the way she exerted absolute control over
00:31:05Sarah I just thought they were a lot of I'm wondering if you had any change of heart I'm looking for some deep philosophical guidance on this because it is weighing heavily on my heart I go between anger and confusion and sadness and love and then just believes I
00:31:25visited them in Alexandria and two thousand five before they adopted their kids after that I followed them on Facebook and was amazed and proud of how many lives they were touching I know you're busy but if you ever have time please send me a message or point me
00:31:39to a person you can I hope you're doing okay I'm sure the painting great if there was a thousand times worse than mine I was grateful for that his %HESITATION every other message I got was hate for an awful like that somebody saying that just kinda echoes what
00:31:57other people said kind of been more quiet ways that they were grateful that I was willing to speak up no part of the city is able to reconcile the women she once knew with the women who began to emerge on paper after the fateful crash the end of
00:32:21the world with Josh Clark is a ten part podcast series about all the ways we humans might accidentally wipe ourselves out in the next century or two and yes that sounds scary bay staters place either I mean that the universe is is how come no care for life
00:32:37on earth and devastating it brings a tremendous amount of energy with it flash heating the earth's surface and broiling alive anything that can't take cover underground around a lot and mind boggling if we accidentally trigger some sort of existential risks are exposed to an extension destructive event that's
00:32:57sort of it for humanity and it definitely is all of those things but it's hopeful to any needs you to listen and understand so you can help save the future of the human rights join me stuff you should does Josh Clark for the end of the world an
00:33:14immersive podcast experience available now on apple podcast the I heart radio app and everywhere you get your podcasts as we've been reporting most of the hard families found dead at the crash site March twenty six that was just days after child protective services tried to visit their home
00:33:40Kerr county to look into reports of potential neglect against parents Serra and Jennifer Hart tonight investigators held a telephone news conference to confirm that they believe the S. U. V. was crashed on purpose but first appeared to be a tragic accident now looks much more sinister captain bart
00:33:57said information downloaded from the airbag control module shows the S. U. V. actually stopped before accelerating over the cliff acceleration from the last break applications talent at the bottom of %HESITATION let's go shin investigators are releasing new details about the heart family tragedy telling us that Jennifer Hart
00:34:18was drunk when she drove the family's car off a cliff in northern California and a wife Sarah had a drug in our system even now zippy has a hard time believing her friends were living to alive there's no part of me and all of my looking back at
00:34:32five miles or nations of them that's capable of seeing that it was just assuring somehow the smoke and mirrors of the compelling digital narrative Jan created was able to cloud a sense of civic responsibility it's not unlike the same mental gymnastics we perform on a daily basis while
00:34:50absent mindedly scrolling through anyone's feet we now of course we do that perfect is a mess but we also convince ourselves the other people must have achieved at pictures have an uncanny way of making any story true Marquez Hannah divine tae Abigail Jeremiah and Sierra died because everyone
00:35:09saw something different when they looked at them the perfect family some lucky rescued kids a symbol for post racial come by our no one saw six young people in desperate need of help not even the people who are looking right at them next time a broken heart so
00:35:34he I she was eating out of the garbage and it just seems I remember they for your daughter all and like just engineer I should be a clue right then and there that this is the person you can operate in the child's best interests I had a monologue
00:35:58would like something not right about absolutely nothing raced part you know when people are sitting in the audience thinking that okay well what if the judge has ruled that we have a little zoo he broken hearts is a joint production between glamour and how stuff works with new
00:36:22episodes dropping every Tuesday broken hearts is co hosted and co written by Justina Harmon and Elizabeth Egan and edited by Wendy knock all learn smiley is our field reporter Samantha Barry is glamorous editor in chief Julie Chen and Deanna Buckman head up the business side of this partnership
00:36:43Joyce pendulum Pat singer and Luke delaski our research team Jason hope is executive producer on behalf of howstuffworks along with producers Julian Weller Benji Breck and Josh state special thanks to Jen lance have questions for us about this podcast Regis on Twitter at glamour mac for access to
00:37:05exclusive photos and videos and documents about the case visit glamour dot com slash broken hearts if you like what you heard leave us a review I'm Katie golden I studied psychology in evolutionary biology at Harvard and I pretend to be a bird on Twitter in my new podcast
00:37:32creature feature week you nature in man from a new perspective each episode asking the comedian to get inside the minds of animals so we can explore the startling connections to human psychology you'll find blood bands and treachery that make game of thrones seem like a dumb show for
00:37:50babies during his every Wednesday and subscribe on apple podcast burn I heart radio out or wherever you listen to podcasts

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