Files on Hart Family Detail Harsh Punishment Over Pizza

Reports from child-welfare officials in 3 states released
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 27, 2018 8:07 AM CDT
Hart Family Girl Received Bruising Spanking Over Penny
This March 20, 2016, file photo shows the Hart family of Woodland, Wash., at a Bernie Sanders rally in Vancouver, Wash.   (Tristan Fortsch/KATU News via AP, File)

In the wake of the Hart family's death at the bottom of a Northern California cliff comes the release of reports by child-welfare officials in Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington state that the New York Times sees as peppered with "clues" as to what was going on inside the family. Its take: that the documents show a "pair of mothers—one dictatorial and eccentric, the other constantly working and seldom home—who doled out cruel punishments." Some of the details are expansions of already reported allegations; others are new. One of the Minnesota reports states that the school the children attended stopped calling Jennifer Hart (the more assertive parent) and Sarah Hart (a manager at Kohl's) regarding any issues with their kids because they feared the calls would trigger harsh punishment for the children.

The Oregon reports include a friend's recollection of an overnight visit the family made to her home during which Jennifer restricted the kids' pizza consumption to one tiny piece. When the leftovers were discovered in the morning to have been eaten, and none of the kids owned up to it, the friend said Jennifer punished the kids by denying them breakfast and making them lie on a bed with their arms by their sides and sleep masks on for as long as five hours, the Oregonian reports. As for the bruising spanking that led to a misdemeanor domestic assault charge for Sarah in Minnesota, CNN reports Sarah allegedly took the fall for Jennifer, who reportedly punished elementary-school-aged Abigail for saying she'd found a penny she had; her mothers accused her of stealing it. (More Hart family stories.)

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