(Update: Jury rules murder-suicide)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A coroner's jury ruled Thursday that two women killed themselves and lost their children when they drove off to Northern California cliff last year.
The Mendocino County jury deliberated for about an hour before delivering the unanimous verdicts after nearly two full days of testimony.
The crash occurred days after authorities in Washington state in an investigation of allegations of the children, ages 12 to 19, were being neglected by Jennifer and Sarah Hart.
The bodies of the women were found in the vehicle, which landed upside down below a cliff more than 160 miles north of San Francisco.
The bodies of four children were recovered and a fifth was matched to remains found in a shoe. The remains of 15-year-old Devonte heart have not been found.
Earlier Thursday, a California Highway Patrol investigator said that shortly before her wife drove their family off the cliff, Sarah Hart researched whether it was relatively painless to the drowning.
A special coroner's jury was seated to determine whether the March 2018 deaths of the southwest Washington couple and their six adopted children were murder-suicide or accidental. Authorities had called the deaths intentional, but wanted a jury to decide.
Jake Slates said at the inquest that Jennifer Hart, who rarely drank, was extremely intoxicated and may have been "drinking to build up her courage."
Sarah Hart and the children had high amounts of Benadryl in their systems.
The crash happened days after Washington state authorities began investigating whether the children were being neglected.