Mom Accused of Killing 6-Year-Old Allegedly Went to Gun Range to Learn How to Shoot Before Murder

Julissa Thaler is accused of murdering her 6-year-old son, Eli Hart

Julissa Thaler, Eli Hart
Julissa Thaler, Eli Hart. Photo: Hennepin County Jail; GoFundMe

The Minnesota mother accused of fatally shooting her 6-year-old son allegedly visited a firing range prior to the killing, so that she could to learn how to use her new gun.

PEOPLE confirms that Julissa Angelica Genrich Thaler, 28, has been charged with second-degree intentional murder in connection with the death of kindergartener Eli Hart.

The allegations against Thaler were revealed on Friday by the Orono Police Department.

Citing the criminal complaint in the case, KSTP-TV, the Star-Tribune, and KARE 11 all report that a friend of Thaler's spoke to detectives, and allegedly said that the young mother had expressed an interest in learning how to use a shotgun.

The friend told police Thaler had purchased a shotgun in mid-March, the complaint alleges, according to the reports.

The two had visited a gun range over two days, so she could learn how to use the weapon, the complaint alleges.

Police allege Thaler would conceal the weapon in a gray blanket whenever she left her apartment with it.

A gray blanket was recovered from the trunk of Thaler's car, where Eli's body was also discovered.

Thaler's car was found by Orono police in Mound, Minn., after officers witnessed a woman "driving on one rim and a shattered-out windshield," Chief Correy Farniok told reporters.

At the time of the stop, police noticed blood and a spent shotgun shell inside the vehicle, as well as blood on Thaler's hand — yet they released her after impounding the car.

A subsequent search of the vehicle revealed Eli's body along with the shotgun that authorities say killed him. Police went to Thaler's apartment and spotted her leaving the area on foot.

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She was arrested by police, who allegedly noted the presence of blood in her hair.

Police later tracked the damage to the road caused by the tireless rim on Thaler's vehicle, and found human remains, a child's car seat damaged by what police believe was a gunshot blast, and a backpack along the way.

Police said another unidentified individual — a 27-year-old man — was arrested at the same time, but that he will not face formal charges. Local media reports state that man was the friend who accompanied Thaler to the gun range for practice.

Custody Battle for Boy

Thaler and Eli's father were fighting for custody of him.

The boy, who wanted to be a firefighter, was previously in the custody of social services, after Dakota County filed a Child in Need of Protection or Service petition on his behalf back in January 2021.

Eli spent 457 days between county custody and family foster care.

According to a GoFundMe campaign organized to help pay for Eli's funeral, the boy spent 11 months living with extended family members, but in December 2021, a judge allowed Eli to return to his mother's care for a home trial.

"Due to many red flags Eli's mother was showing, Tory tried extremely hard to get custody of Eli," the fundraiser's description alleged. "Numerous parties made many statements to CPS, fearing that mom would harm Eli if full custody were returned. Sadly, full custody was returned on May 10, 2022."

A judge set Thaler's bail at $2 million.

It wasn't immediately clear if she had retained an attorney or entered a plea.

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