MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Upgraded murder charges have been filed against a Minnesota mom who is accused of fatally shooting her 6-year-old son and stashing his body in the trunk of her car last spring.
Julissa Thaler was already charged with second-degree murder in the May 20 death of Eli Hart. The suburban Minneapolis mom was indicted on a first-degree murder charge Friday. She is accused of shooting her son multiple times and then hiding his body in the trunk of her car shortly after she regained custody of him.
“The only surprise in this indictment is how long” it took the County Attorney’s Office to get one, Thaler’s public defender, Bryan Leary, said to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He said his defense of Thaler “will point out the reasonable doubts that lurk in the evidence.”
He said prosecutors recently offered Thaler a plea agreement on the second-degree charge, but accepting that would have meant agreeing to a 40-year sentence. She hadn't responded to that offer before Friday's indictment.
Last May, Orono Police pulled Thaler over after she was spotted driving her car on a wheel rim and with a window smashed out. Search warrant documents filed in the case say officers who spoke with Thaler noticed blood on her face and hands, and what they suspected were human remains spattered on the inside of the vehicle.
She was arrested after officers found the boy’s body in the trunk.
A judge ruled in September that Thaler was competent to help in her own defense, and her trial is scheduled to start Jan. 30.
Hart's father, Tory Hart, was trying to regain custody of his son at the time of his death. A judge had just restored Thaler's custody of Eli 10 days before he died.
Tory Hart has also filed a lawsuit against Dakota County and three of its employees, accusing officials of ignoring signs that Eli wouldn't be safe in Thaler's care. He said in the lawsuit that Thaler has a history of substance abuse and hospitalization for mental illness that should have been a red flag.