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‘This monster’: Mom curses court, professes innocence, is sentenced to life without parole over shotgun murder of 6-year-old son

Julissa Thaler

Julissa Thaler, pictured in a Hennepin County mugshot. The photo on the right shows the gas station scene and dumpster where evidence of Eli Hart’s remains were found. (Image via screengrab/KARE 11.)

A Minnesota mother will spend the rest of her life in prison for repeatedly shooting and killing her 6-year-old son with a shotgun, a judge ruled on Thursday after a courtroom outburst.

Julissa Thaler, 29, fired as many as nine shotgun shells into Eli Hart’s young body on the evening of May 19, 2022. The following day, she drove around with his body in the trunk of her Chevrolet Impala and threw away some of his remains in a gas station dumpster.

“A citizen saw the vehicle at a gas station not long before the traffic stop,” an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case alleged. “The information provided was that the vehicle had stopped near the dumpsters.”

Officers searched the dumpster and found a backpack and the remains.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Jay Quam sentenced Thaler to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Under state law, a first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence in prison.

Family members of the boy testified as the mother huddled with her attorneys, according to a report by Minneapolis-based NBC affiliate KARE.

“You could see the love and bonding shared every second they were together,” Eli’s stepmother Josephine Josephson said, describing the relationship between the boy and his father. “Nothing will ever be the same. The pain will never go away.”

Eli Hart’s aunt, Nikita Kromberg, said her nephew was more like a son.

The loss, she said, has led to her youngest son hating school because of the pain he feels without his cousin here. After therapy, she said, her youngest son has chosen to remember Eli Hart as a butterfly.

“To this day, I blame myself for not saving Eli when I was fostering him,” Kromberg told the court. “I should have documented things better, taken pictures or video of Eli and any encounters I had with this monster. How could someone do such an evil thing to an amazing, loving kid?”

The judge sought to console the grieving aunt.

“You realize it wasn’t your fault … it wasn’t your fault at all,” Quam said, according to KARE. “So the sooner you let go of that, the sooner you can appreciate all the time you did have with Eli. Thank you for what you did for Eli. You made his life better.”

The mother was convicted of the murder earlier this month. She was charged with second-degree murder three days after the boy was killed. Thaler was indicted on a first-degree murder charge in January.

The violence came amidst a custody dispute between her and her son’s father, Tory Hart. Evidence suggested that Thaler was fixated on her ex when questioned by police about what happened.

“Do you need my ex’s name?” she asked an officer.

Later, Thaler said: “I, there’s stuff that I — didn’t tell you about my ex.”

Her ex, the boy’s father, did not address the court on Thursday.

The mother only uttered a sentence during the proceedings.

“I’m innocent, fu– you all. You’re garbage,” she reportedly said.

The judge responded.

“Ms. Thaler, I don’t know that that’s appropriate here,” Quam said. “The worst thing that seems to happen to parents is to lose their child. It’s worse, though, when you don’t lose your child to something like cancer or an accident. It’s when someone takes that child from the world. What I can’t imagine, nobody can imagine, is when the person who takes a child from the world is the one that brought that child in.”

Then she was sentenced.

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.

The boy’s father, who had warned the court about Thaler’s history of drug abuse, paranoia, and hallucinations, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Dakota County and three social services employees alleging they were negligent in ignoring the warnings of family.

Matt Naham and Alberto Luperon contributed to this report.

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