Devonte, 15, and his sisters Hannah, 16, and Sierra, 12, who are also believed to have been in the car, remain missing. Acting Assistant CHP Chief Greg Baarts said investigators couldn’t determine which woman was driving.
Devonte, a young black boy, was photographed in 2014 crying in the arms of a white police officer during a protest in Oregon over police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri.
“Three children are still missing and could be in the ocean,” Baarts said. “We are trying to determine a timeline, path of travel, and if there were any stops.”
He told NBC News that California authorities were “tirelessly searching for the missing children along the coastline,” while authorities in California and Washington were “conducting interviews and attempting to establish a timeline and routes of travel in an effort to rule out any other possibilities.”
According to neighbors and court records, the family has had troubles in the past, carrying over to a recent investigation into abuse or neglect with the Washington Department of Social and Health Services.
Sarah Hart was charged with a misdemeanor offense of domestic assault against her daughter Abigail in 2011, and neighbors claimed that Devonte would often ask them for food. He said his parents would withhold food as punishment.
The household had previously been visited by Child Protective Services, and neighbors claimed to have called the agency again to report on the family on March 23, before the Harts left on the trip that resulted in the fatal incident.