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The mother of 6-year-old Eli Hart has been charged with his murder, with a criminal complaint stating she shot him potentially up to nine times with a shotgun.

Julissa Thaler, 28, of Spring Park, has been charged with 2nd-degree murder with intent after her son's body was found in the trunk of the vehicle she was driving during a police traffic stop on Thursday.

Another person arrested in connection with Hart's death has not been charged yet, with prosecutors saying there's insufficient evidence at this time.

The criminal complaint against Thaler says Orono police stopped her vehicle in Mound after noticing one of the tires was missing and was being driven on the rim. 

Further inspection showed that the back window was broken out and there was blood on Thaler's hand, while officers saw a shotgun shell and spent casing in the vehicle.

Julissa Thaler

Thaler was initially released from the scene, with police then finding Hart's body in the trunk. When they went to Thaler's apartment to arrest her, the clothes she had been wearing when she was stopped were in the washing machine, and Thaler was trying to leave the area on foot.

"Officers observed that the defendant had blood and what appeared to be brain matter in her hair at the time of her arrest," the complaint says.

Witnesses told police that they had seen Thaler's vehicle stopped at a gas station shortly before the traffic stop, and had stopped near the dumpsters.

A search of the dumpster saw officers find a backpack, blood, bone, and more brain matter.

Officers found more locations where evidence was discarded, including a bloody child booster seat that was found in one dumpster, which had sustained damage "consistent with a shotgun blast."

"Preliminary autopsy findings revealed that Victim was shot multiple times, possibly up to nine times including shots to the torso and head," the complaint says.

A friend of Thaler's told police she had wanted to learn how to use a gun so they had gone to the gun range. The same witness said Thaler had been carrying a shotgun in and out of the apartment, which she would wrap in a gray blanket.

The complaint doesn't detail where Thaler obtained the gun.

Hart was the subject of a custody battle, with his father, Tory Hart, seeking full custody. In January 2021, Dakota County filed a child protection services (CPS) order and gave legal and physical custody of Eli Hart to Dakota County Social Services.

Tory Hart filed to establish full custody on March 11, 2022, and on March 30 a judge ruled to maintain Dakota County Social Services' custody of the boy. The case was then given an inactive status while the Dakota County CPS case was being resolved.

On May 10, Thaler was granted full custody, per CBS. The case was then reopened on May 12 and Eli Hart's parents were due to appear for an initial case management conference on June 21.

Court documents showed that social services had concerns about Thaler's mental health, living situation and her criminal history. Friends and Hart's former foster mother had expressed fears that she would harm her son if she got custody.

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