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Family says they expressed concern for Eli Hart's safety before his death

Authorities had removed 6-year-old Eli from his mother's care in 2021, and she now faces charges in his shooting death.

ORONO, Minn. — New questions surround the heartbreaking death of six-year-old Eli Hart. 

He was found dead Friday in the trunk of a car police had stopped in Mound and now his mother is now charged in his murder.

As the tributes and memorials grow for Eli, some of his family members say that they had expressed concern for his safety before his death, and this never should have happened.

A memorial is growing on a fence near where police pulled over the car that Eli's mother, 28-year-old Julissa Angelica Genrich Thaler, was driving.

One resident who left a flower and a card said "It helps people get through this."

Court documents allege Thaler shot Eli up to nine times, and say police found a shotgun alongside the child's body in the trunk of his mother's car.

"I can't even tell you how many times we expressed our concerns," said Josie Josephson, who is Eli's father's fiancé. "I’m beyond frustrated that the system failed Eli."

Documents show that Dakota County Social Services took custody of the child in January 2021 and filed a 'Child in Need of Protection or Service', otherwise called CHIPS. Josephson said their family was becoming increasingly concerned with Thaler's deteriorating mental health and alleged drug use.

"Yet they continued to push forward, stating that a CHIPS case and CPS (Child Protection Services) goal is reunite the child with the mother," said Josephson.

The same documents show that two months ago, Eli's father filed a petition to get custody of the child.

Josephson said Thaler was eventually granted unsupervised visits, all while she and Eli's father passed background checks, psychological evaluations and home inspections to place the boy with them instead.

"I’m disappointed and I’m deeply saddened by all of this," said Josephson.

Thaler is in custody, where a judge set bail at $2 million.

Kevin Borg, the superintendent of the school district where Eli was a kindergartener, wrote a statement to KARE 11 on Monday: 

"Our focus is supporting our staff and students. Our staff have worked tirelessly this weekend. Today our staff did an incredible job. Our students and families are supporting each other and the display of love in our community is heartwarming.

We are focused on providing continuous support and focus on the end of year activities that our students enjoy."

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