The mother of a slain 6-year-old boy is under arrest on suspicion of murdering him after police found his body in the trunk of his car, according to court records and interviews with law enforcement officials. family.
Family members said on Saturday that the boy’s father, Tory Hart, was trying to get custody of his child at the time of the boy’s death.
The woman was arrested after Orono police received a call on Friday reporting a car driving on a tire rim with the rear window shattered. When officers stopped the car in Mound, they noticed blood inside the vehicle and found the body inside the trunk.
Police said the driver of the vehicle and another person have been arrested on suspicion of homicide, but have not yet charged them or identified the victim. Police have yet to release details of the circumstances of the death.
Family members blamed Dakota County social workers for failing to protect the child, who was placed in foster care for nearly a year after the boy’s mother failed to care of him correctly, as evidenced by interviews and court records. The boy was returned to his mother in December despite objections from his adoptive parents and other family members.
“This county has largely let this child down,” said Nikita Kronberg, a relative of the mother who acted as her adoptive mother for 11 months.
Hart’s fiancée, Josie Josephson, said several family members “expressed a lot of concern.”
The Dakota County social worker assigned to the case did not respond to messages.
Josephson said the boy was a happy, patient child who loved playing with Matchbox cars and dreamed of one day becoming a firefighter. He suffered from a rare genetic condition called Townes-Brock syndrome, which led to kidney disease and hearing problems requiring hearing aids.
The boy “was loved by everyone who met him,” Josephson said. “He just had more medical needs than the average kid.”
Family members said the boy’s behavior changed after his mother regained custody of the boy five months ago. Family members said he started misbehaving at school and was violent towards other children, including pushing another child off a slide. He also kicked another child in the throat.
In a March 25 email to county social workers reviewed by the Star Tribune, Hart expressed concern that his son was “mentally and emotionally abused.”
Hart noted that her son was having trouble sleeping, chewing his shirt and showing other signs of anxiety, and again using baby talk. The boy was also stuttering again.
The boy “had none of these issues before” returning to live with his mother, Hart said in the email.
Josephson said Hart lost contact with his son shortly after the boy was born. They rekindled their relationship in 2019 when the boy’s mother showed up at a family wedding and swapped phone numbers with Hart.
“They loved each other very much,” Josephson said. “Tory’s days and weeks revolved around when he would see his son next, and the next slumber party… He was missing a part of himself when [his son] was not there.”
Josephson said Hart hopes to win custody after a court hearing this summer and bring him home to Chetek, Wis., where Hart operates a bait shop.
“We told ourselves so many times that the right thing was going to happen,” Josephson said. “We are so frustrated that they didn’t hear our cries.”
Writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.