Mother sentenced for killing 6-year-old son

Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 9:20 AM CST
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Minnesota mother will spend the rest of her life in prison for murdering her 6-year-old son.

A Hennepin County judge sentenced Julissa Thaler to life without parole Thursday.

Last year, police found 6-year-old Eli Hart shot to death in the trunk of her car. Days earlier, Dakota County Social Services had granted Thaler full custody of the boy.

The boy’s father, Tory Hart, and stepmother, Josie Josephson, also have an active civil suit against the social services agency.

“Eli was an innocent, loving 6-year-old boy. He did not deserve this,” Josephson said in court. “Eli deserved to grow and have a safe and happy life.”

Eli’s dad and Josephson detailed to the judge how special the boy was and how much it hurt to lose him.

“No one should ever have to feel this kind of pain or trauma, but we have been sentenced to a lifetime of this pain, Confusion, grief, sorrow and trauma,” Josephson said. “A lifetime without Eli.”

Police in Orono, Minnesota, arrested Thaler for Eli’s death in May.

Eli’s former foster mom, Nikita Kronberg, says his death has been especially hard for her own boys.

“How could someone do such an evil thing to an amazing, loving kid?” Kronberg said. “Why would she end the life of her own child? She knew that Tory wanted Eli, so why did she not give custody and make Eli happy?”

Judge Jay Quam even referenced his own son during the hearing.

“You’re living out the nightmare of every parent. The worst nightmare of every parent,” Quam said. “There’s a difference between us though, Tory. I couldn’t do what you did. I couldn’t, if I lost my son.”

Thaler said she was innocent, used an expletive and insulted everyone in her chance to speak in court.

Eli’s family says their hope is to begin healing while carrying out his legacy.

They started a foundation in his honor and are fundraising for a playground at Seaside Park in Mound, Minnesota. They said it’s a place to honor him and all kids who deserve a happy childhood.