Charges: Mom fatally shot 6-year-old son, hid his body in trunk of car
MOUND, Minn. (FOX 9) - The mom of a 6-year-old boy who was found fatally shot in the trunk of the car she was driving in Mound on Friday has now been charged with murder, accused of shooting him up to nine times in the car with a shotgun.
Julissa Angelica Genrich Thaler, 28, of Spring Park, was charged Monday with second-degree murder, with intent, in the killing of her 6-year-old son, Eli Hart, on Friday, May 20.
Thaler's first court appearance is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Her bail has been set at $2 million, court documents show. Another person, a man, was also taken into custody on Friday in connection to Eli's death. The Hennepin County Attorney's Office told FOX 9 on Monday there is insufficient evidence at this time to charge him in connection to Eli's death.
Eli's family has launched a GoFundMe to help pay for funeral costs. Eli was a kindergarten student at Shirley Hills Primary School in Mound, Westonka Public Schools said Saturday.
RELATED: Family of boy killed in Mound says state didn't do enough to protect him 'They ignored us'
Additional crime scenes found
In a news release on Tuesday, the Orono Police Department said the investigation into Eli's death has led authorities to addresses in Mound and Minnetrista, where police have "found evidence implicating those locations as potential scenes." It is now a joint investigation because "there are crime scenes in multiple jurisdictions."
The Orono and Minnetrista police departments are investigating, along with the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.
The medical examiner on Tuesday officially identified Eli, of Spring Park, as the victim in the case, noting he died of multiple shotgun wounds at 8:44 a.m. at Bartlett Boulevard and Shoreline Drive in Mound.
According to the criminal complaint and Orono police, at about 7 a.m. on Friday, May 20, police officers conducted a traffic stop on a Chevrolet Impala, driven by Thaler, that was missing one of its front tires and was riding on the rim. The back window of the vehicle was broken out and there appeared to be blood on Thaler’s hand. There was also a shotgun shell and a spent casing in the vehicle, as well as blood and what looked like a bullet hole in the back seat, charges said.
Police determined there was probable cause to search the vehicle and that it couldn’t be operated safely. That’s when police searched the trunk, finding Eli, who had been shot. There was also a shotgun in the trunk, the complaint states.
Julissa Thaler is charged with second-degree murder in the death of her 6-year-old son, Eli Hart. (Hennepin County Jail)
Before police found Eli’s body, Thaler had been released from the scene, the criminal complaint said. The charging documents do not say why she was released.
When officers discovered Eli’s body, they responded to Thaler’s apartment but she’d left and the washing machine was running, charges said. Police found the clothes Thaler was wearing at the time of the traffic stop being washed in the machine.
Thaler was found leaving the area on foot and was arrested, charges said. She had blood and what looked like brain matter in her hair.
A witness saw Thaler’s vehicle at the Shell gas station on Three Points Boulevard not long before the traffic stop, the complaint said. Police searched the dumpsters at the gas station, finding a backpack, blood, bone and what looked like brain matter.
Police "followed damage done to the roads" by Thaler’s vehicle's rim, as well as information from witnesses, leading officers to "multiple locations" where blood and brain matter were discarded, charges said. Police found a bloody child booster seat in a dumpster, noting the seat had sustained damage "consistent with a shotgun blast."
Officers spoke to Thaler’s friend, identified in the complaint as RP, who said over the past week, Thaler wanted to learn how to use a gun, so they went to a gun range. He said she bought the shotgun on March 17, and they went to the gun rate the next two days. He also told police Thaler had been carrying the shotgun in and out of the apartment, and when she did, it was wrapped in a gray blanket.
Police further searched Thaler's car, finding "significant blood" and what appeared to be brain matter in the backseat, charges state. A gray blanket was also found in the trunk.
A preliminary autopsy found Eli was shot multiple times, possibly up to nine times, including shots to the torso and head, the complaint said.
Fight for custody
Court documents show Eli's father, Tory Hart, had been fighting for custody of his son. Tory Hart's fiancé, Josie Josephson, told FOX 9 the boy's mother struggled with drug addiction and mental health issues. But despite their repeated calls for help, Josephson says Thaler, Eli's biological mom, was recently awarded full custody.
"That was it until last night when we got notified that he was found in the trunk of his mom’s car. Not only did we express concerns to multiple people, multiple times…every time the response was, ‘This is something for family courts.’ (CPS) said laws do not allow us to address this, unless (they) see physical abuse, (they) have no grounds to remove him from her home," Josephson told FOX 9 on Saturday.
FOX 9 has reached out to CPS for comment.
"Numerous people were saying they feared for Eli's safety if he was returned to her, and that was ignored," foster mother Nikita Kronberg told FOX 9.
Memorial growing for Eli
Memorials for Eli are growing in the Lake Minnetonka community. Flowers and signs mark the intersection of Shoreline Drive and Bartlett Boulevard in Mound, where Thaler was pulled over by police Friday morning.
A larger memorial is also growing at Back Channel Brewing, down the road in Spring Park, where a distraught community member and her 6-year-old daughter were hanging a card and flower for Eli on Monday afternoon. She said she didn't know Eli.
A memorial is growing at Back Channel Brewing in Spring Park to remember Eli Hart. (FOX 9)
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.