"Anyone who knew Eli just fell in love with him. He was always happy, full of energy, full of questions, very inquisitive."
A Minnesota family is grieving the loss of a loved one after six-year-old Eli Hart was found dead in the trunk of his mother's car during a traffic stop in Mound on Friday. According to WCCO, the boy's mother, Julissa Thaler, was charged with second-degree murder in Hennepin County on Monday after she was arrested by Orono police early Saturday morning. Speaking to reporters, Chief Correy Farniok revealed that the Orono Police Department conducted the traffic stop after officers witnessed a woman "driving on one rim and a shattered-out windshield."
Memorial wall for 6-yr-old Eli Hart on the bridge of the Seton Channel on Lake Mtka. People can leave flowers and write letters. pic.twitter.com/M5L6k59j7t— Kate Raddatz (@KateRaddatz) May 23, 2022
As per the criminal complaint, police said they noticed what appeared to be blood on Thaler's hand, and also saw a shotgun shell, a spent shell casing, and a bullet hole in the back seat of the vehicle. Further investigation led officers to discover the little boy's body in the trunk of the Chevy Impala along with a shotgun. Speaking to KSTP-TV, Eli's devastated family members remembered him as a sweet and kind kindergartener with dreams of becoming a firefighter. "I guess we're just doing the best we can," said Josie Josephson, the fiancée of Eli's father, Tory Hart. "Tory and I are grieving in our separate ways. He's still trying to absorb this. To him, it's really hard to believe that this is real, that he'll never see Eli again."
Family members have identified 6-year-old Eli Hart as the boy found dead in a car trunk near Orono Friday.— Adam Duxter (@AdamDuxter) May 21, 2022
Hart is pictured here with his father, Tory Hart and Hart’s fiancée Josie Josephson.
Court docs Hart’s biological mother was recently awarded full custody. @WCCO #WCCO pic.twitter.com/1eU8ejJCky
"Eli was the sweetest kid. Very kind. Anyone who knew Eli just fell in love with him," Josephson added. "He was always happy, full of energy, full of questions, very inquisitive. He loved to play with Matchbox cars. Recently, he learned how to fish." According to PEOPLE, Thaler and Hart were in the middle of a lengthy custody battle. Josephson revealed that Eli was previously in the custody of social services after Dakota County filed a Child in Need of Protection or Service petition on his behalf in January 2021. "He was placed in the custody of Dakota County. He was in Dakota County's custody for 457 days," she shared. "During that time, we worked closely with Dakota County. They allowed us to be involved in Eli's (life). He was allowed visits with us, unsupervised visits."
This story is the most disgusting and disturbing example of how different people are treated by the police. They see blood on her hands. There are spent shotgun shells and blood on a CARSEAT meant for a child, and they released her from the scene. https://t.co/GWvicFom5U— Working to make a difference in the world (@MammaG64) May 23, 2022
According to a GoFundMe campaign organized to help cover Eli's funeral costs, the child spent 11 months living with extended family members but was returned to his mother's care for a home trial in December 2021. Josephson said she and the boy's father made sure to visit as much as they were permitted during this period. "We went back to our every other weekend visitation and every Tuesday," she stated. 'We live about an hour-and-a-half from where Eli is located, and every Tuesday we drove two-and-a-half hours to see him, and two-and-a-half hours to go home, and that was for a two-hour visit. We never missed a visit."
"Due to many red flags Eli's mother was showing, Tory tried extremely hard to get custody of Eli," the fundraiser description alleged. "Numerous parties made many statements to CPS, fearing that mom would harm Eli if full custody were returned. Sadly, full custody was returned on May 10, 2022." Meanwhile, social workers reportedly expressed their worry over Thaler's lengthy history of traffic violations, inability to maintain stable housing, and mental health concerns. "I feared if she got custody back, that she would harm Eli, if not worse," said Nikita Kronberg, whose family took the boy in for almost a year. "I instantly responded with, you know, this is a dangerous situation for Eli. You know, I fear for his safety if he's returned to her. There are numerous things I had brought up that were concerning that I had noticed." A judge has set Thaler's bail at $2 million and her next court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday.
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe