The trouble starts when a teacher notices a bruise on Hannah Hart's arm. It follows Jen and Sarah Hart across three states, to the blue house in Woodland, Washington, where they're supposed to get a fresh start.

Learn more about your ad-choices at
United States


00:00:00I'm Jeff Rosenthal co founder of Sunday a thought leadership community and ideas festival and I have a new podcast called part of the hospital will be breaking down how the world's most fascinating successful people have hustled their way to the top hearing their wisdom and understanding their ways
00:00:14obscene with guests like Arlen Hamilton and Tim Ferriss new episodes drop every Wednesday to subscribe now on apple podcast realism I heart radio or anywhere else to find can I help you worry checking on the mother are Serra and Jennifer Hart okay according to my intake they have
00:00:40six children in the home six children okay I'll be nineteen so not technically legally a child okay dead children are in range between nineteen and twelve according to my intake okay and are you with CPS or you are the concerns that are yeah intelligently yes ma'am okay let's
00:01:03see the whole Monday and Friday the knock on the door just this morning and now I can get a response are you there now now unfortunately and you've tried two times and you can't reach them correct I've knocked on the door twice the card to be moving in
00:01:19and out I noticed so I feel like someone okay and when were you there last this morning nine fifteen nine thirty okay I've got a deputy on the way and he will call you back with me I have something to tell you okay all righty thanks have a
00:01:35good day bye the call you just heard came in the day the hearts died you can hear the operator speaking with the case worker from Clark County social services requesting a wellness check at the heart family's home in woodland Washington the case worker was responding to a call
00:01:50from Dana dekalb who lived next door with her husband Bruce and share drive way with the hearts she wasn't the first person to report the hearts to the authorities you may recall that her own dad had reported them for months earlier hi how can I help you yeah
00:02:05there's some kids that I feel is being highly abuse in no woodland Washington and basically why some laws like most people they don't want to get involved and so he was my daughter out of it since he's told me about it I just can't live with it on
00:02:22very concerned for these kids so how did these women adventurous tree hugging free spirited piece necks as Jed called them on Facebook go from being group C. idealistic trailblazers two moms who abused their kids and drove off a cliff and when did the abuse begin from glamour and
00:02:42howstuffworks this is broken heart I'm lazy get and I'm just in Harmon here's Lawrence Miley talking with Amy %HESITATION stod Rustad whose son went to woodland elementary school with the hearts describe what you did see when they were they're going to the same school as your kids just
00:03:09kind of walk me through what you knew about the heart rate you're caught your eye in a can and should switch something you can't really they had a horrible them you know you're shooting these five in a an hour south five and markets must've been at the middle
00:03:26school by then I can remember them all you're getting out and standing in a line and just waiting for a river all alone in this line and then they would just walk right in just like little soldiers and you know we thought it was my husband and I
00:03:41were talk Waterton change well I guess you know world behaves we thought they were all the same age that's one thing that I do remember is you know our son was in kindergarten than we thought they were slow so we thought they had in kindergarten the kids any
00:03:58soften her car window where the hearts Abigail Hannah divine tae Jeremiah and Sierra the woman dropping them off would've been Jan at this point Sir was working full time at Herberger's while Jen stayed home with the kids if you've ever done school drop off you know the scene
00:04:14big backpacks shuffling sneakers maybe a little sister waving from the backseat lots of kids the next seven hours are drudgery to be adored for the hearts the school day might have been a welcome respite from what was going on at home if you started in Alexandria Minnesota and
00:04:33it would fall the family cross three states we'll never know why Jenin Serra moved so many times but wherever they went people notice their kids odd robotic behavior the bruises their hunger cheers Ian Sperling Jenin Sara's friend to you've heard from before looking back on it it doesn't
00:04:51look like they were normal kids didn't really have friends there and hang out with other kids and yeah that's one of those red flags when I stated that in my post like that's one of the other things looking back on like why don't we know that they didn't
00:05:01have like France you know the kids were allowed to just go hang out with friends the paper trail starts on September nineteenth two thousand eight according to a police report someone on the staff at Washington elementary school noticed a suspicious bruise on Hannah Hart's arm she was six
00:05:23and this was her second week of first grade the teacher see at first cafeteria aid the school nurse according to a police report Hannah told someone at school that her mother had struck her with the bell devante was nearly six to most likely adjusting to life in a
00:05:43different kindergarten class Marcus was somewhere else in the same building he was ten did Hannah tell her brothers what had happened while they waited for John to come pick them up after school here's what we know when Sara and Jen were questioned they told the police that the
00:06:00bruise on Hannah's arm was probably from a fall down the stairs eight stairs to be exact which is an odd detail to have on the tip of your tongue I walk from the first floor of my house to the second one at least a thousand times over the
00:06:14thirteen years we've lived there and I couldn't tell you how many stairs there are two months later a week before thanksgiving break Jenin Sir with drew Hannah divine Tay and markets from Washington elementary school to be home schooled this must have been a terrifying moment for the kids
00:06:32relinquishing their cubbies in their spots on the rug what was running through their minds when they left the classrooms that day was markets he was in the fifth grade relieved to be sprung from the looming spectre of long division where they dreading being stuck in the house all
00:06:45day with Jan Jan painted a colorful picture of home schooling on Facebook lessons on the beach meditation on the deck our class on the dining room table but who knows how long the day's work for her six students and how much they might have missed having classmates who
00:07:00were their siblings and a teacher who wasn't there mom in September two thousand nine the Hart family took a road trip so Jen and Sarah could get married in a civil ceremony in Connecticut where same sex marriage was legal for the next nine years Jan would mark their
00:07:17anniversary is on Facebook showing the two of them in front of a waterfall or thicket of evergreens along side of flowery ode to her bride who by all accounts was not a regular user of social media when we were finally able to get married chan wrote in two
00:07:33thousand seventeen the only people present were our children simply because our support system was so small that same fall all five school aged heart kids were re enrolled in public school leader Jenin Serra would tell a social worker did this was a requirement of their adoption agency so
00:07:52off the older five went markets Hanna divine day Abigail and Jeremiah Sierra stayed home with Jan you beautiful thing you Jan wrote about her on Facebook according to a police report in November of two thousand ten Douglas county social services got another call from school this time and
00:08:12the subject was Abigail who is in the first grade she'd been stealing classmates food and taking to the garbage looking for scraps later that month Abigail reported alleys to our teacher according to a report compiled three years later by the Oregon department of health and Human Services and
00:08:31I'm quoting here Abigail had bruising on her stomach area from her sternum to waistband and bruising on her back from made back to upper buttocks reportedly caused by Jan heart according to Abigail but in the CBS interview with the couple Sarah Hart said she was the one responsible
00:08:49for the marks the worker said this incident was over a penny he discovered a penny in Abigail's pocket and asked her about it Abigail had said she found at chance they're hard to not believe her and said she still the penny and was lying about it hence the
00:09:04spanking which got out of control per Serra hard Abigail also said they put her head under cold water and Jan had her two hands on her neck end quote investigators interviewed the other heart kids who said they were often grounded spanked or sent to their rooms without food
00:09:27but when Jen and Sarah were questioned separately they told a different story Sarah said she'd been the one who had Abigail Jan backdrop and investigators believed that maybe Jan had more to lose she was the one who received monthly assistance tax from the state of Texas for adopting
00:09:45the kids out of foster care she also received social security checks for divine Tay and Jeremiah all of these checks were in her name and she might have believed a child abuse conviction would put these funds in jeopardy the case workers report said the problem is these women
00:10:04look normal remember Abby was the first kid Jan held in her arms the one who made her a mom she was the one who loved to dance parties and try to teach the chickens how to do yoga in one of the last pictures we see of her on
00:10:18Facebook she's buckled into a roller coaster at the Oregon state fair smiling bravely by Serah's side this is the girl whose knack Jan held in her hands under cold water the state filed charges against Serra in state court for two gross misdemeanors malicious punishment of a child and
00:10:37domestic assault in December of two thousand ten Minnesota child welfare learned about a bruise on Hannah's hand by this time she was in third grade dear of chapter books when you're not quite one of the big kids yet but you know your way around the school when she
00:10:54was questioned Hannah said Jan had her because she lied she said Jan had her all the time later the school nurse called the hearts to report that Hannah was asking her classmates for food she said she hadn't eaten all day serwis response was not the one you'd expect
00:11:10of a mother trying to put our best foot forward for the benefit of the authorities she said of Hannah she's playing the food card just give her water Hannah was the oldest sister the one with the missing front teeth there aren't many pictures of her on Facebook but
00:11:26in the ones we do see she appears shy and tentative she was the one who would eventually jump out her bedroom window and run to the neighbors in the middle of the night to tell them her mom's were abusive but that wouldn't happen until later much later Ian
00:11:43Sperling says he hadn't seen much of the family in the year before they died they were canceled plans lots of them he's been beating himself up over some of the signs he missed obviously hindsight is twenty twenty my wife and I are beating ourselves up daily because you
00:11:59know why did we see this we couldn't there's not a person right now even those people that said they followed up I get the neighbors following up because they probably saw more but people are friends or acquaintances of the heart there's no way they knew anything was wrong
00:12:12there's no it's not possible maybe if you really wanted to be a very critical judgmental person you may have said well there too perfect commit died or you know the kids are skinny well we just thought they were eating organic food in that scene is a lot of
00:12:24people who are skinny and I think the whole food thing you know look if I was not wanting to live fire demonized Jen I would say well she didn't know how to punish them because six kids who have developmental disabilities are going to be tough to raise and
00:12:37so maybe this was her way of trying to find a punishment that was appropriate wires you know where you're going to bed without dinner tonight type of thing and they have morphed into a bigger deal with rehearsing neighbors finding out about and stuff like that who knows that's
00:12:50one way to look at it I think a more realistic with a look and she actually local thank you know the way to look at it was that's how she controlled on Tuesday April fifth two thousand eleven all six heart kids were pulled out of woodland elementary school
00:13:08this time they never went back the Hart family was officially off the grid the following year Sarah Hart was discharged from supervised probation in Minnesota and moved to Oregon to find a new job we don't know how often the kids got to see Sarah during this time but
00:13:27her absence must have been hard on them already had a lot of disruption in their lives the been removed from the homes of their biological families in some cases families they would have remembered during this time on December twenty third two thousand twelve Jan had a car accident
00:13:44with the kids in Missoula Montana the car she was driving was the Yukon the same one she was driving when she went off the cliff as she described it on Facebook once twice three times finally we crashed into the side of the gently sloping mountain in what was
00:14:02most likely seconds so many inexplicable thoughts ran through my mind was a dead there was no way we could have all survived such an incident I %HESITATION clench my fists from the steering wheel brushed off the glass and turned my head back to see all six kids hanging
00:14:19upside down are you okay every single child was safely secured by their seat belts Jenin goes into a lengthy description of a couple who bent over backwards to help them even offering to drive the hearts the rest away to Portland where they were going to see Sarah we
00:14:40were able to find any record of the accident Jan describes however after the hearts died Brian Lee the husband from the couple who offered to drive them that night was interviewed by The Oregonian he remembers meeting the family after they were involved in what he calls a rollover
00:14:56accident he says he and his wife rented a trailer to tow the hearts card to Spokane and the Jan talked for the entire three hour drive she must have been starved for adult company interestingly lease says the accident happened the day after Christmas not two days before as
00:15:15Jan said in her Facebook post when she posted about the event years later she made the family survival sounds like a Christmas miracle the fact that the accident happened right before Christmas seem to be the whole point of course leave might have been mistaken about the date but
00:15:33this discrepancy could be yet another bit of evidence that Jan had her own interpretation of facts Hey Joe do you know what I love meeting friends after work at a local brewery maybe gather around an old barrel or somethin sipping a well crafted U. C. I. P. A.
00:15:52while discussing personal finance Matt buddy you're totally speak my language except I'm pretty sure most people in this scenario aren't talking about money with their friends because that's a super awkward topic why does everyone make it's a weird dude I know right it doesn't have to be that
00:16:06awkward given we'd like to talk about personal finance expressly weekly my dining room over craft beer on our podcast how to money whether we're talking about ways to cut your grocery bill creating side hustles or traveling the world unless we're having conversations about personal finance and how it
00:16:22relates to normal people who want to enjoy life and also be money smart that's right we're all about making these topics relatable and enjoyable so it's something you'll want to talk about the next time you meet up for drinks so if you want a level of your personal
00:16:36finance game then be sure to listen and subscribe on apple podcast the I heart radio app or where ever you get your podcast just search for how to money a few months later Jen and the kids reunited with Sarah for good in their new home in west Linn
00:16:58Oregon about fifteen miles outside of Portland Jan immortalized there goodbye and Facebook leaving out the moms brushes with the law here's what she wrote packing the past ten years of my life into boxes it's almost surreal walking through the house empty walls empty drawers empty cupboards empty rooms
00:17:21the kids art supplies instruments games and toys are packed I was feeling kind of awful about the lack of things for them to do during the transition time until this morning I was taking down the boys bunk beds and heard the loudest silliest full on belly laughs in
00:17:36the fall is coming from the other room I walk in to see a trio of the kids sitting slash laying on the bare floor not a single thing exists in that room aside from their little bodies they were telling stories making up silly songs and laughing themselves into
00:17:50sprawled out piles of utter bliss I yes simplicity at its finest what a beautiful reminder that the things that matter most are not things at all each other our songs are laughter our love these are the magic moments live love laugh ninety two people liked this post I
00:18:18headed south Portland to the suburb of west Linn it's in Clackamas county berry or Tonya Harding grown up I recently seen I Tonya so been expecting the scrappy white working class neighborhoods from the movie instead on the bluff over the Willamette River and it's mostly defunct paper mills
00:18:36is an upscale main drag filled with plot the studios a Jew shop a plastic surgeon offering botox the nearby streets are lined with tidy clapboard houses and picket fences but to stuck out for being less manicured than the others wanted in the house that the heart's rented when
00:18:52they moved to Oregon and next to it the house the bill Groner Groner is in his sixties ruddy cheeks belly white go T. you get the sense he be a really good mall Santa inside his house an electric piano sits on his kitchen table in his fridge is
00:19:08plastered with pictures of grandkids and a magnet the reeds pray without ceasing this is bill you can hear baseball games for up all the way up here from the park down below a lot of water skiing a lot of boating actually cut to neighbors down here across the
00:19:27street that have have both so a lot of camping the hearts love to %HESITATION champ I know because they were seem like they are often going out on the expeditions with their canoes on the top of their their vehicle they love getting away which is one reason I
00:19:48I thought you know they were good once in the regard that they were doing like fun outdoor stuff for their kids it seems like they've been here for like maybe for three years all first time I talked to was %HESITATION at the mailbox and one of them was
00:20:06little bill Gallo think she were a bit calls Vancouver forget is that Sarah and she was kind of the more open friendly one and the other lady was friendly %HESITATION talk to Serra at the mailbox conversation came up once there was something in the mail box she thought
00:20:30I can't remember what it was whether it was somebody had written something in their mailbox something that she talks like she thought that she had gotten away from that by coming out here so that was that was an issue for her again you know being okay %HESITATION then
00:20:53that that app said basically intimated that she had the experience that they had experienced that because she had mentioned the then they they had some problems before you know and she can go into detail but she just conscious being gay society and %HESITATION so I just thought well
00:21:18maybe you know I don't want her to think that I'm being judgmental and I just want to be a good neighbor we'd like to pause here to consider what bill Groner a saying of course he doesn't want to be a bad neighbor nobody does but we do think
00:21:34the pain spell and others talk to give Jenin Sarah a wide berth might have enabled their mistreatment of the kids to be clear we're not placing the blame on bill's shoulders or anyone else's but we do want to call attention to the very human tendency not to get
00:21:51involved we believe it might have landed the heart moms some free passes who wants to be the person who comes across as being homophobic or recessed or close minded or as bill himself said judgmental we're taught if you see something say something but we're also told you can't
00:22:14judge another woman into you walk in her shoes if your neighbors family looks different from yours you might check yourself when you're questioning their decisions or their parenting and in most cases that's the right thing to do but where Jan and Sara were concerned political correctness might have
00:22:33provided them some cover for their double life I mean I see the kid out front once in awhile it see the kids not very often not very often never song like walking up the street or anything like that they were pretty much stayed in there you are friendly
00:22:56smile and say hi didn't really care conversation at an ever saw any kind of friends or family over there visiting dating seem to come out well it didn't come outside very often at all just stayed in the house of they were looking for land saving up there became
00:23:18evident the reason they were here was just as a stop off place with that many kids this is you know a large house nice kind of an area that you know not not like some places for get some land and all that they could have animals I know
00:23:39they were working on getting the financing together remember when they were talking about that they wanted to get back to the garden is we used to say in the seventies I'm Katie golden I studied psychology in evolutionary biology at Harvard and I pretend to be a bird on
00:24:10Twitter in my new podcast creature 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
00:24:29like a dumb show for babies during his every Wednesday and subscribe on apple podcast or in the I heart radio app or wherever you listen to podcasts west Linn for four years before they moved in our north to woodland Washington to the house next door to the dekalb's
00:24:54they never registered as home schoolers so for a while at least the state of Oregon didn't know about six of its newest residents but that would change in two thousand thirteen well gents Facebook account was at maximum activity with near daily posts throughout the year to whistle blowers
00:25:12reported the family to CBS the first call came in on July eighteenth a few weeks after Jan post a picture of a painfully thin devant today playing guitar me any particular reason your naked him in the most matter of factly fashion I'm not naked I'm wearing a guitar
00:25:33yep that's my string bean according to the CBS report the first informant who is anonymous said Jan does this thing for her Facebook page where the kids pose and are made to look like one big happy family but after the photo event they go back to looking lifeless
00:25:50the same whistleblower said Jan had allowed each kid only a single slice of pizza for dinner and when it turned out that someone had helped themselves to more during the night she punished all six kids by making them were sleeping masks and line an air mattress for five
00:26:04hours the whistle blower noted that the kids would eat freely while Jen wasn't around but when she entered the room they deny that they'd eaten at all this second whistleblower identified herself as Alexandra are drop less she was a friend to the hearts had stayed with when they
00:26:20travel to San Francisco that summer on Facebook we see divine Tate in zebra unitard again with it then flashing a hang loose sign in front of the Golden Gate Bridge the caption good morning city by the bay in a statement after their deaths are drop list said Jan
00:26:38ran the family quote like a regimented boot camp not letting the kids cry and punishing them for laughing too loudly also according to our drop less quote true kindness love and respect for the kids largely absent child welfare visited the Westland house in August of two thousand and
00:26:57thirteen and interviewed each of the kids separately despite their moms hesitation about that arrangement according to a CBS report devante volunteered to go first and all of the kids answers were nearly identical not mention past episodes of abuse and market said he was grateful to the moms for
00:27:15changing his life one social worker noted that with the exception of divine today quote the kids appeared very reserved and showed little emotion or animation and quote what it was their turn to speak to case workers Jenin Serra said Abigail had been quote labeled borderline mentally retarded but
00:27:35they didn't believe the diagnosis and that Jeremiah was globally delayed possibly even not testing they also explain Hannah's missing front teeth like this should not them out while running on a hardwood floor the year before and I told the CPS worker she needed to wait until she was
00:27:52seventeen to get a retainer with teeth the case workers report noted that Gen was quote adamant that many of the families issues stemming from others not understanding their alternative lifestyle chan said she only discipline to the kids by talking to them or making them meditate for five minutes
00:28:10a doctor who examines the kids for the Oregon department of Human Services found all but one of the heart kids Jeremiah behind in their growth to the point of falling off in some cases way off the chart for their ages still I hand written cover letter atop the
00:28:26report states the doctor had no concerns whatsoever with any of the children even so the doctor recommended that a case worker monitor the family and request follow up physicals in six months this never happened on October twenty fifth two thousand thirteen the same week her six kids were
00:28:44examined on behalf of the state Jan posted a picture of divine tae holding a homemade piggy bank painted like a glow with the caption that said he had the whole world in his hand up next time on broken hearts Rome well moving on to you and I'm not
00:29:04ready does a lot of white CV resume symbolic in this story now that I never understood or knew about these kids are being used to prop the fact that that would be utilized as a way to mask the abuse and what that was happening within the whole it's
00:29:20just down starving his tough we love those kids so much for access to exclusive photos and videos and documents about the case visit glamour dot com slash broken hearts have questions for us about this podcast Regis on Twitter at glamour mac or at broken hearts pot if you
00:29:47like what you heard leave us a review broken hearts is a joint production between glamour and how stuff works with new episodes 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
00:30:06field reporter the Barry is glamour's editor in chief Lee hsien and Deanna Buckman head up the business side of this partnership choice pendulum Pat singer and Luke delaski our research team Jason hope is executive producer on behalf of howstuffworks along with producers Julian Weller ban ki Breck and
00:30:27Josh state thanks to Jen laughs you know people say necessity is the mother of invention but that's not always true sometimes the mother of invention is advertising or pure accident how about a ego maniacal delusion absolutely or just a desperate longing to be cool I'm Robert Lamm in
00:30:54I'm Joe McCormick with the host of the science podcast stuff to blow your mind and now we're branching off into the exploration of invention invention is the story of human history told one piece of technology at a time the things we made and how they made us invention
00:31:10publishes every Monday listen and subscribe to invention on apple podcast the I heart radio app or wherever you find your podcasts

Transcribed by algorithms. Report Errata
Disclaimer: The podcast and artwork embedded on this page are from iHeartRadio & Glamour, which is the property of its owner and not affiliated with or endorsed by Listen Notes, Inc.


Thank you for helping to keep the podcast database up to date.