The mother of 6-year-old Eli Hart has been found guilty of first-degree murder in his death. Julissa Thaler, who has a history of mental health issues as well as drug use, will spend the rest of her life in prison without the possibility of parole, a judge told her Thursday. Following her sentencing, Thaler continued to claim her own innocence, cursing and calling everyone involved in the judicial process “garbage,” KMSP-TV in Minneapolis reported.
WARNING: Some viewers will find the contents of the following video offensive.“I’m innocent,” Thaler said in a Hennepin County court. “F*** you all. You’re garbage.” As the judge continued to explain the disposition of her case, Thaler broke into tears, but then interrupted him to say she couldn’t hear anything he was saying over the sound of his stomach grumbling. The judge’s voice is clearly audible in the video. On May 20, police pulled over Thaler’s car with a flat tire and a smashed back window in Mound, Minnesota. When they approached the vehicle, they spotted blood inside. In the car they found a shotgun shell, a spent casing and a bullet hole, according to USA Today. But the worst find was stowed away in the trunk, itself hidden like garbage: It was the body of 6-year-old Eli Hart, who had been shot multiple times. As news of the tragic find circulated and the investigation continued, heartbreaking details started to emerge. At the time of Eli’s death, his biological father, Tory Hart, had been fighting for custody of his son. Eli had spent nearly a year in foster care after his mother had allegedly failed to care for him properly, but he was returned to her care in December 2021. People close to the boy saw him turn into a different person after he was returned to Thaler. Formerly, the boy had been known as happy and patient, with dreams of becoming a firefighter someday. But then he began misbehaving in school, dealing with anxiety issues, stuttering and using baby talk. Hart contacted county social workers, fearing that his son was being mentally and emotionally abused, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Investigators say that six days after Hart filed for custody, Thaler purchased a shotgun and learned how to use it. Nikita Kronberg, a family member who was Eli’s foster mother for 11 months, saw the warning signs and repeatedly tried to get Eli removed from his mother’s care. “I told the social worker and the guardian that I was worried that she would kill Eli to prevent his father from getting custody,” Kronberg said, according to the Star Tribune. “I expressed those fears numerous times, and it was clearly brushed aside.” Even Thaler’s father, knowing her history of mental health issues and substance abuse, said he’d tried without success to keep Eli from her. “I gave the judge her detailed mental health history,” Thaler’s father said, according to the Star Tribune. “I told him that she was displaying paranoia and auditory hallucinations. I said I feared for Eli’s safety. It all fell on deaf ears. “Tory was the parent that Eli deserved. He is the guy you want raising your grandchild.” Hart’s fiancée, Josie Josephson, said that Eli had loved his father and that this loss has been devastating — especially because they’d fought so hard to keep him safe. “Eli was a very happy, energetic 6-year-old boy,” Josephson told KARE-TV in Minneapolis. “He loved his dad immensely. His eyes would light up when he saw his dad. Although Eli wasn’t biologically my own, I fought side by side with Tory to try to get him custody of him; in my heart he was my own son. We expressed our concerns numerous times.” [firefly_poll] Within a year, four separate social workers were assigned to the boy’s case. Family members concerned for Eli’s safety were sending up to 15 emails daily and getting little to no response, the Star Tribune reported. “Our hearts go out to the family,” Mound Mayor Ray Salazar told KARE at the time. “For myself, and I’m sure I share with all of our great citizens in our city, it’s a horrible, horrifying situation … You can’t imagine the pain that this family must be going through, Tory, Eli’s family.” A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise $200,000 to build a memorial playground in Eli’s honor; readers can contribute to that cause here. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.