(Reuters) - California authorities have found a skeletal human foot near where six children are believed to have died when their mother is thought to have deliberately driven their vehicle off a cliff in March, officials said on Thursday.
An area resident alerted the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday after finding a pair of girl’s jean pants with a shoe entangled inside one leg on a Pacific Ocean beach, the law enforcement agency said.
“Upon inspection, it was determined skeletal remains of what appeared to be a human foot was inside of the shoe,” it said in a statement.
The shoe - described as a 3.5 U.S. “big kid” size or 5.5 women’s U.S. size - and the foot have been sent to a coroner. State forensics experts are being asked to identify the remains through DNA analysis, and the beach area was being searched on Thursday, the statement said.
The foot was found about a mile north of where six black children are thought to have died when their adoptive white mother, Jennifer Hart, 38, of Woodland, Washington, drove their sport-utility vehicle off a seaside cliff.
Her wife, Sarah Hart, 38, who was also white, died in the crash about 200 miles north of San Francisco. It was discovered by a motorist on March 26.
Two of the children - Devonte Hart, 15, and Hannah Hart, 16 - are still missing. The children who have been confirmed dead ranged in age from 12 to 19.
Devonte Hart gained international attention in 2014 when he was photographed hugging a white police officer at a rally to protest the shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.
Jennifer Hart is thought to have driven the car off the cliff three days after child protective services in Washington state opened an investigation into allegations she and her partner potentially neglected or abused the children.
Three children have tested positive for an ingredient commonly found in the allergy drug Benadryl, which can make people sleepy, the sheriff’s statement said, without giving further details. One child had no toxicological finding.
A police autopsy has shown that Jennifer Hart was legally drunk at the time of the crash.
Authorities have said Sarah Hart also tested positive for the Benadryl ingredient.
Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington