Two arrested in Minnesota after 6-year-old boy found dead in trunk, shot up to 9 times

MOUND, Minn. — Police arrested two people after finding a child’s dead body in the trunk of the car during a traffic stop.

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Orono police said at a press conference they were first called for a car driving on its rims with a smashed rear windshield. Officers who arrived on scene stopped the car, and said they found blood in the vehicle before finding the 6-year-old in the trunk of the car.

The driver of the vehicle, identified as the child’s mother, Julia Thaler, was arrested along with a 27-year-old man in the car, KARE reported.

A criminal complaint obtained by WCCO said the child was shot as many as nine times.

According to the criminal complaint, Orono police officers responding to the scene saw what appeared to be blood on Thaler’s hand, as well as a shotgun shell and spent casing in the vehicle and what appeared to be a bullet hole in the backseat, KMSP reported. Officers also said they found a shotgun in the truck.

Court documents obtained by KMSP said that police searched the dumpsters at a Shell gas station just 2 miles away from the traffic stop, and found a backpack, blood, bone, and other evidence inside.

Family members identified the 6-year-old as Eli Hart, WCCO reported. The superintendent for Westonka Schools confirmed the child was a student in a message to the community, saying that a crisis support team would be at school to support students, staff and parents.

Court documents obtained by KMSP indicate Eli’s mother had full custody, but that his father, Tory Hart, had been fighting for custody of his son, and the family told the station that they had previously reached out to CPS for help.

Documents obtained by WCCO show social workers in Dakota County had concerns about Thaler’s mental health, criminal history and living situation.

Tory Hart’s family has started an online fundraiser through GoFundMe to raise money for a funeral and headstone for the 6-year-old.

If convicted, Thaler could face up to 40 years in prison, WCCO reported.

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