Minnesota mother charged after 6-year-old, shot multiple times, is found in trunkPublished at
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The mother of 6-year-old Eli Hart has been charged in the boy’s death after he was found dead in a car trunk while police were executing a traffic stop near Orono Friday morning.
On Monday, Julissa Thaler was charged with second-degree murder in Hennepin County. She was arrested by police early Saturday morning.
Orono police say they stopped a car traveling near Shoreline Drive and Bartlett Boulevard Friday morning after a caller reported the car had a shattered rear window and blown out tire.
According to the criminal complaint, officers saw what appeared to be blood on Thaler’s hand, and observed a shotgun shell, a spent shell casing and a bullet hole in the back seat. Based on the state of the vehicle, officers determined there was probable cause to search the vehicle, including the trunk.
When officers searched the vehicle before towing the vehicle, they found a child’s body in the trunk. There was also a shotgun found inside the trunk, the complaint said.
Multiple family members previously identified the boy who was found dead as Hart.
The complaint says a preliminary autopsy found that Hart was shot multiple times, possibly up to nine times.
Prior to officers finding the body, Thaler was released from the scene. When officers went to arrest her at her apartment, they found that she had placed the clothes she was wearing in the washing machine and was trying to leave on foot, the complaint said.
Thaler’s vehicle was seen at a gas station near some dumpsters not long before the traffic stop. Officers searched there and found a backpack, blood and other evidence of a shooting. There were other locations where blood and evidence of a shooting were found discarded, including a bloody child booster seat, which sustained damage consistent with a shotgun blast.
Dakota County court documents portray the last two years of Hart’s life centered around an ongoing custody battle between Thaler and his biological father, Tory Hart. In January of 2021, records show Eli Hart was placed into family foster care after concerns regarding his mother’s mental health grew.
Dakota County court documents showed concerns about Thaler’s mental health, living situation and criminal history. The case was closed and she was awarded sole custody less than two weeks before her arrest.
“I feared if she got custody back, that she would harm Eli, if not worse,” said Nikita Kronberg, whose family took Hart in for almost a year. “I keep looking at pictures of him and I think this can’t be real. He’s out there somewhere playing, having fun. It can’t be real.”
According to the criminal complaint, Thaler had wanted to learn how to use a gun recently, so she went with a friend to the gun range, using a shotgun.
Thaler’s first court appearance is set for 1:30 p.m. If convicted, she could face up to 40 years in prison.