A routine traffic stop resulted in a mother being arrested for the murder of her six-year old son.
Orono police in Minnesota pulled over 28-year-old Julissa Thaler for a shattered windshield and for driving on one rim. According to documents obtained by WCCO-TV, police searched the car upon spotting blood on Thaler’s hand, along with a shotgun shell, a spent shell casing, and a bullet hole in the backseat.
In the trunk, they discovered a child’s body. Family members later identified the child as Eli Hart, a kindergarten student who wanted to be a fire fighter. A shotgun was also found in the trunk, according to the criminal complaint.
The filicide happened in the midst of a custody battle in court between Eli’s father, Tory Hart, and Thaler.
In January 2021, Eli was placed into foster care. PEOPLE reported that Tory’s fiancee, Josie Josephson, said Eli spent “457 days between county custody and family foster care.” She added that she and Tory were permitted unsupervised visits with Eli upon working closely with Dakota County.
A Go Fund Me page has been set up by Nikita Kronberg, whose husband is Thaler’s cousin. According to her, Thaler filed “several false Orders of Protection”, preventing Tory and Eli from having a relationship. Eli spent eleven months living with Nikita. Nikita says that the father and son became close.
“During that time, Eli and Tory were able to start a relationship, and their bond was powerful from the start. Eli fell in love with his father and loved spending time with him. Tory was excited to make up for all the lost years and was thrilled to start teaching his son how to fish and ride a bike with no training wheels,” Nikita said.
In December 2021, Eli was placed back into his mother’s care for a home trial, a move that concerned many.
“Due to many red flags, Eli's mother was showing, Tory tried extremely hard to get custody of Eli. Unfortunately, more false Orders of Protection were filed, which postponed custody hearings. Numerous parties made many statements to CPS, fearing that mom would harm Eli if full custody were returned,” Nikita continued on the Go Fund Me page.
Thaler was granted full custody of Eli on May 10, 2022, despite an alleged history of unstable housing, mental health issues, and a history of traffic violations. Two weeks later, on May 20, police reported that she was pulled over with the child in her trunk. The preliminary autopsy found multiple gunshot wounds. Thaler has been charged with second-degree murder and her bail was set at $2 million. Her next court appearance is Tuesday.
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