A Minnesota jury determined Wednesday that the 29-year-old mother accused of murdering her 6-year-old son with a shotgun before driving around with his body in the trunk of her car amid a heated child custody battle is guilty as charged.
Julissa Thaler shot and killed Eli Hart on May 20, 2022, threw his body in the trunk of a Chevy Impala missing one of its front tires, and drove on the vehicle’s rim to a nearby gas station where she discarded evidence of brain matter and more, according to the probable cause affidavit in the case.
“A citizen saw the vehicle at a gas station not long before the traffic stop. The information provided was that the vehicle had stopped near the dumpsters. Officers searched the dumpster and located a backpack, blood, bone and what appeared to be brain matter,” documents said.
According to officers with Mound Police, the grisly discovery of Eli Hart’s body was made following a traffic stop related to Thaler’s driving on the rim of the car.
“Upon stopping the vehicle, Officers approach and encountered the driver, JULISSA ANGELICA GENRICH THALER, the defendant herein. Officers observed that the back window was broken out and there appeared to be blood on the defendant’s hand. Officers also observed a shotgun shell as well as a spent casing in the vehicle. Officers also observed blood in the vehicle and what appeared to be a bullet hole in the back seat,” investigators said. “Based on the state of the vehicle, it was determined that there was probable cause to search the vehicle and that it could not be operated safely. Prior to towing the vehicle, officers searched the vehicle, including the trunk. Upon searching the trunk, officers located the body of a juvenile male who had been shot. There was also a shotgun in the trunk.”
Prosecutors said that Thaler shot Hart up to nine times — including in his head. The affidavit said that apparent “brain matter” and blood were visible in the backseat of the vehicle. Thaler was similarly found to have “brain matter in her hair at the time of her arrest.”
Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty confirmed the jury’s verdict and called the case “one of the most horrific” and “brutal” she’s ever seen.
“Eli’s brutal murder is one of the most horrific cases I have encountered in 30 years working in the criminal legal system. Nothing will ever fill the emptiness Eli’s father and other loved ones now live with every day, but I’m hopeful this verdict will make it just a bit easier to remember Eli as the toothless, happy, smiling little boy we have seen in photos,” Moriarty said. “We are grateful to the Orono Police Department for their work on the case and all who contributed to this outcome.”
As previously reported, Thaler was charged with murder while she and the boy’s father Tory Hart fought over custody of Eli. Evidence showed Thaler was fixated on her ex when questioned by police about what happened.
“Do you need my ex’s name?” she asked.
“I, there’s stuff that I — didn’t tell you about my ex,” Thaler said later.
Not long before Eli’s murder, a Dakota County judge, following the recommendations of social workers, granted full custody to Thaler — despite the concerns of family members.
Tory Hart, saying that warned the court about Thaler’s history of drug abuse, paranoia and hallucinations to no avail, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Dakota County and three social services employees alleging they were negligent in ignoring the warnings of family members as well as other signs that Thaler was a danger to Eli.
“He was always really happy, outgoing, always full of energy, always,” the grieving father reportedly testified at Thaler’s murder trial. “He was everything to me. He completed my life. Just loved spending time with me, I loved spending time with him.”
To bolster their case that the slaying was intentional and premeditated, prosecutors noted that Julissa Thaler made highly incriminating Google searches like: “How to keep child away from other parent with visitation,” “How to fake being home to the cops,” “How much blood can a 6-year-old lose,” “Qualifying accidental deaths,” “How much does life insurance pay for dead child.”
Thaler now faces life in prison without parole for first-degree murder. She was also convicted of second-degree murder.