The mother of a 6-year-old Minnesota boy was arrested over the weekend for allegedly killing her son less than two weeks after she was awarded full parental custody of the child.
On May 24, Julissa Thaler was charged with second-degree murder in Hennepin County while appearing virtually in court. She was arrested by the Orono Police Department during a traffic stop on May 20, jail records show. A judge set the 28-year-old’s bail at $2 million.
Orono authorities said they found the boy’s lifeless body in the trunk of Thaler’s vehicle after receiving a 911 call around 7 a.m. that Friday concerning a suspicious vehicle, WCCO reported.
As police conducted the traffic stop, they noticed blood on the interior of the vehicle and searched the car, leading deputies to find the boy’s body. A second unidentified individual was also arrested at an apartment complex.
“It sort of shocks you, and our hearts go out to the victim in this as well as the officers, first responders,” Orono Police Chief Correy Farniok told the station.
The family of Tory Hart, the child’s biological father, said Thaler won full custody of the boy on May 10 despite numerous parties making many statements to Child Protective Services (CPS) to warn them Thaler could potentially harm the boy if full custody is returned to her, according to a GoFundMe campaign organized to help cover the child’s funeral costs.
The boy, identified as Eli, was initially taken from his mother in January 2021 because she failed to properly care for him. The boy then spent 11 months living in foster care.
According to the fundraiser, Hart could not have custody of Eli owing to “several false Orders of Protection filed by Eli’s mother.”
While Eli was placed in foster care with a relative, the guardian said the boy began to develop a bond with his father. During that time, Hart tried again to fight for custody of the boy because of the “many red flags” exhibited by Thaler.
“During that time, Eli and Tory were able to start a relationship, and their bond was powerful from the start,” the description of the fundraiser reads. “Eli fell in love with his father and loved spending time with him. Tory was excited to make up for all the lost years and was thrilled to start teaching his son how to fish and ride a bike with no training wheels.”
In December 2021, Eli returned to live with his mother, who describes herself on her Facebook page as a “feminist.”
According to Dakota County court documents obtained by WCCO, Thaler had previously shown concerns including mental health, living situation, and drug abuse. Despite these concerns, she was still granted sole custody two weeks before Eli’s body was found in her car.
Nikita Kronberg, Eli’s foster parent who took the boy in for almost a year, said she had also warned authorities that she feared for Eli’s safety if custody were to be returned to Thaler.
“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,” Kronberg said.
Hart’s fiancée, Josie Josephson, told FOX9 that she had also warned authorities about the mental health and drug addiction of Eli’s biological mother, but calls were ignored.
“No matter how many cries we cried, they ignored us,” Josephson said. “No matter how many warning signs there were.”
“Not only did we express concerns to multiple people, multiple times … every time the response was, ‘This is something for family courts,'” she said. “[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.”