Woman found guilty on all counts in murder of 6-year-old son

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A jury has found a west metro woman guilty of murder in the death of her 6-year-old son, Eli Hart.

Julissa Thaler, 28, was convicted of first- and second-degree murder on Wednesday following less than two hours of deliberation.

Per Minnesota law, a first-degree murder sentence carries an automatic life term in prison with no possibility of parole. Thaler’s sentencing is set for Feb. 16.

Just after 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, prosecutors rested their case against Thaler, according to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reporter Eric Chaloux, who was in the courtroom. The defense rested without calling any witnesses.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Dan Allard told the jury that Eli “probably thought he was going on a late-night adventure” and that “the person he trusted the most killed him.”

Thaler is charged with fatally shooting her son with a shotgun after they left their Spring Lake condo last May.

Prosecutors say the next morning, the boy was found dead in the trunk of her car, along with a shotgun, after Thaler was pulled over during a traffic stop in Mound. The child’s DNA and blood were found in her hair, investigators add.

Prosecutors told the jury they don’t know exactly where Eli was killed, as Thaler drove around the west metro for hours.

The prosecution never specified a motive, only telling the jury during closing arguments that she recently bought life insurance policies and was dealing with child custody involving Eli.

Thaler told the court she would not take the stand, on the advice of her lawyers.

Her defense attorney, Bryan Leary, told the jury, “she’s guilty of something” but not of the first- and second-degree murder charges.

Leary added the state hasn’t shown that she alone “hefted the gun” and shot Eli multiple times.

Closing arguments wrapped up around 2:20 p.m., and the jury reached a verdict just after 4 p.m.

The case was filled with graphic evidence, and at least one juror left with tears in her eyes after the judge read the verdict in court.

Eli’s father, Tory Hart, didn’t stop to talk after the verdict came down.

As previously reported, opening statements began last Friday after a nearly week-long jury selection.