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Wrongful death lawsuit filed in Eli Hart case

Six-year-old Hart was found dead in the trunk of his mother's vehicle in May.
Credit: Gordon Severson, KARE

HENNEPIN COUNTY, Minn. — A wrongful death lawsuit was filed Thursday in the case of Eli Hart, the 6-year-old whose body was found in the truck of a vehicle during a traffic stop earlier this year.

According to court documents, Tory Hart, Eli's biological father, filed the lawsuit against Dakota County Social Services employees Beth Dehner and Sherri Larson. Hart is seeking more than $75,000 in damages, claiming that Dakota County and its employees, who provided services to his son, were negligent.

On May 20, 2022, Hart was found dead in the trunk of a vehicle driven by his biological mother, Julissa Thaler. Officers first encountered Thaler after initiating a traffic stop, noting the vehicle was missing a front tire and a back window had been shot out. 

While officers on scene conducted a preliminary investigation, Thaler was released and transported back to her Orono apartment. As authorities searched the vehicle, they discovered Eli's body under a blanket in the trunk.

Thaler was subsequently arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the death of her son.

Dakota County Social Services first removed Eli from the care of Thaler in January 2021 after Eli's family expressed concern with Thaler's alleged drug use and deteriorating mental health. Just two months prior to his son's death, Tory had filed for custody of Eli, according to court documents.

RELATED: Community effort to dedicate bridge, playground to Eli Hart

RELATED: Warrant details police interaction with Julissa Thaler following son's death

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