A young mother in Minnesota is reportedly in police custody under suspicion of murder after officers discovered her 6-year-old son dead in the trunk of her bloodied car.
What are the details?
Orono police received a call Friday night about a vehicle driving on a blown-out tire with a shattered rear window, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. Officers eventually stopped the vehicle in Mound, where they noticed blood inside and, shortly after, discovered the boy's body in the trunk.
Police arrested a 28-year-old woman and another man at the scene but have not yet commented about the circumstances surrounding the child's death.
Authorities also did not immediately identify the deceased boy or the individuals arrested, but family members have since confirmed the boy is 6-year-old Eli Hart, according to WCCO-TV.
Furthermore, the outlet noted that an online jail roster in Hennepin County shows Hart’s biological mother, Julissa Thaler, was arrested by Orono police early Saturday morning on pending murder charges.
What's the background?
The Star Tribune noted that Hart's death occurred amid an ugly custody battle. The boy's father, Tory Hart, and his fiancee had been attempting to win custody of the boy at the time of his death. And Stephen and Nikita Kronberg, a couple who fostered the boy for 11 months while the custody battle played out, tearfully said that Eli's death, while tragic, is not unexpected.
Woman arrested after 6-year-old son found dead in car trunk in Minnesota www.youtube.com
Stephen Kronberg is Thaler's cousin, and his wife Nikita told WCCO that she feared the worst after Thaler regained custody of Eli in December following a Child Protective Services investigation.
"I feared if she got custody back, that she would harm Eli, if not worse," Kronberg said on Sunday. "I instantly responded with, you know, this is a dangerous situation for Eli. You know, I fear for his safety if he’s returned to her. There are numerous things I had brought up that were concerning that I had noticed."
She and other family members blamed Dakota County social workers, in part, for the boy's death. Court records reportedly indicated that Eli had been placed in foster care after it was determined that his mother had failed to properly care for him.
Hart's fiancee, Josie Josephson, told the Star Tribune that multiple family members "expressed a lot of concern" when Eli was returned to his mother. They alleged that Eli's behavior changed dramatically. He began engaging in violence at school and displaying other signs of anxiety, such as chewing on his shirt, talking like a baby again, and having trouble sleeping.
In late March, they sent an email to county social workers claiming that Eli was being "mentally and emotionally abused."
Hart and Josephson hoped to eventually win custody of Eli and raise him in Chetek, Wisconsin, where Hart manages a bait shop.
They and the Kronbergs described Eli as a happy, energetic child who loved playing with Matchbox cars and dreamed of becoming a firefighter. He suffered from a rare genetic disorder called Townes-Brock syndrome, which led to kidney disease and caused problems with his hearing that required hearing aids.
"We told ourselves so many times that the right thing will happen," Josephson told the Star Tribune, adding, "We are so frustrated that they didn't hear our cries."