Tory Hart has lived through a nightmare no parent should endure, and now he is seeking reparations for what he calls negligence from Dakota County staff to save his son, Eli, from the boy’s own mother, according to lawsuit documents.
According to CBS, Hart seeks more than $75,000 in damages and names specific employees of the county who had a part in returning six-year-old Eli Hart to his mother ten days before she allegedly murdered him.
Police arrested 28-year-old Julissa Thaler in May for having a shattered windshield and driving on one rim, CBS says.
According to documents obtained by CBS in May, 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. CBS reported that in the trunk, police discovered a child’s body, later identified by family as Eli Hart.
KARE11 reports that Thaler is accused of shooting Eli while strapped into a booster seat in the care. The criminal complaint released in May claimed she shot him up to nine times in the body and head.
Hart filed for custody of Eli six days before the shooting, and gave the judge a detailed history of Thaler’s mental health, the Star Tribune reported in May.
Eli was placed in foster care in January 2021 and lived with family members for eleven months, before being returned to Thaler, who was granted full custody on May 10, 2022, the Tribune said.
Ten days later, Eli was dead in the backseat of her car, according to the criminal complaint.
Numerous red flags were raised by Tory Hart and his family concerning Thaler’s mental instability and fears over Eli’s safety, and Hart included descriptions of several disturbing incidents within the lawsuit, KARE11 says.
In February 2021, the lawsuit alleges that a social worker watched via shared video as Thaler showed cat feces to the boy, then later showing Thaler attempting to cook while grabbing the cat by the neck and muttering to herself, KARE11 reports.
According to a February 2022 report, Eli often arrived at school without his hearing aids, and had allegedly told his teacher several times before that he hadn’t slept much the night before, says KARE11.
Tory also noted that last Christmas, during a December 27 FaceTime call, Eli remained in the same PJs he’d worn on December 23, and Eli told his father that Santa had not visited Thaler’s home, KARE11 says.
According to the criminal complaint, in January, Tory expressed frustration and worry over his son’s living conditions with Thaler.
“My son is not safe with her. How much damage is she allowed to inflict in his life? How is this even allowed to happen? Who is protecting Eli?” Tory said.
George Thaler, Julissa’s father, also voiced concerns in court over Eli’s well-being, KARE11 reports.
“I'm very, very, very, very concerned for Eli. I'm terrified about Julissa. She's got many arrests for assault and dangerous behavior, put Eli in very dangerous [situations.] I'm just saying there's a very, very long history. He's got high needs, a very good kid. I don't think she's capable of giving him what he needs by any stretch, and that's it,” George said, quoted in a court transcript.
The lawsuit says that while Thaler may have pulled the trigger, ultimately the lack of action from Dakota County provided the “proximate cause” of Eli’s death, KARE11 reports.
Thaler is receiving mental health evaluations in prison on the murder charge, and is scheduled to appear in court in two weeks.