‘I cried so much,’ schoolmate says after 4 kids slain
Sheriff's deputies and SWAT team members converged on a Port St. John home early Tuesday after reports of shootings.
May 16th, 2012
01:25 PM ET

‘I cried so much,’ schoolmate says after 4 kids slain

Friends of four Florida children who police say were fatally shot by their mother reacted with tears and stunned silence Tuesday when they found out their classmates were dead.

Student Malcolm Murray, a friend of slain teenager Jaxs Johnson, said the killings were announced over the loudspeaker Tuesday at Space Coast Junior-Senior High School in Cocoa, Florida, where Johnson and two of his siblings attended.

"It's unfair she had to take his life," Murray told CNN affiliate WKMG. "I cried so much I can’t cry anymore."

Authorities said Tonya Thomas, 33, killed her four children - Joel Johnson, 12; Jazlin Johnson, 13; Jaxs Johnson, 15; and Pebbles Johnson, 17 – before fatally shooting herself early Tuesday at their home in Port St. John.

Some of the children went to a neighbor’s home to say that their mother was shooting them, but they returned to their house when Thomas called them back and Thomas shot them again, killing them, Brevard County Sheriff’s Lt. Tod Goodyear said, according to WKMG.

“After we found out who died at our school, no one really wanted to talk,” student Jacob Nelson, who sat next to Jaxs Johnson in history class, told CNN affiliate WESH. “It was just really hard to digest what really happened and how it happened.”

Goodyear said police don’t know of a motive in the shooting. Friends and court documents, however, revealed that Jaxs and his mother were having difficulties.

Jaxs was arrested in April on a domestic violence charge, accused of fighting with his mother when she tried to wake him up for school, WKMG and WESH reported. He was supposed to appear in juvenile court on Tuesday in connection with the case, according to WKMG.

Friends said Jaxs didn’t appear in school on Monday, WKMG reported. Officials said they believe Jaxs was the first child shot on Tuesday morning, according to WESH.

Murray said Jaxs, when they last spoke, said things were getting better at home.

“(Jaxs) said everything was good in the family and they were getting back to the way they used to be, so for this to happen, I broke down, because I didn’t see it coming at all,” Murray told WKMG.

The children's father did not live with the family and was distraught after hearing of the killings, the affiliates reported.

Friends and relatives left a teddy bear, notes, candles and flowers outside the home on Tuesday, CNN affiliate CFN13 reported.

“We want people to know that they weren’t forgotten, no matter what happened today,” neighbor Tony Amador told WKMG.

High school student Corbin Wratchford said Pebbles Johnson was in his physics class.

"She just brought the classroom to life," Wratchford told CFN13. "The teacher loved her. She made everything else better.

“I had a class with Jaxs Johnson, too. He was in my team sports class, and he was also really fun.”

The victims’ schools said they made grief counselors available to students Wednesday.

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Filed under: Crime • Florida
soundoff (247 Responses)
  1. Bartholamu

    Poor kids, last thing they saw was mom pointing a gun at them.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mark

    So sad. But, how could the neighbor allow the children to return to that house after they told the neighbor that their mother was shooting them??? How can that neighbor live with their self after this ??? You grab the kids lock the doors and call the police to come quick ...

    May 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LostinSLC

    I am perplexed why the kids went back home......mom shot them and they went back, why?

    May 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Antwoine in Atlanta

      I asked myself the same thing.... I do not know what kind of hold she had on them.. but wow. And what is the neigbor going through who let them go?

      May 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daisy

      It could be that they thought if they did what she wanted, she wouldn't hurt them any more, and that if they didn't, she would come after them.

      May 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tami

      I am asking the same question. They were old enough to know what mom was doing was wrong and ran for help. Then she called them back to the house and they went, I'm really not understanding. And the time of morning this was, why were they awake. Just a sad situation.

      May 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Antwoine in Atlanta

    This is the kind of story shakes me to the core. No mention if this mother had any form of mental illness. Sad..so sad.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. woogiesmom

    I agree Bartholamu... Such a preventable tragedy...

    May 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • IG88

      How can you prevent such a thing? Just because there were some problems that people knew of from the periphery of their lives how does one predict that someone will go off the deep end like that?

      May 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy©

    This is just awful.....so, so sad.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tres Vonne

    Florida. Nuff said.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jim McDonald

    Story smells a bit strange. I'm betting everyone around her knew this would happen -and did nothing.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daisy

      Jim McDonald, why would you think that? Most of the time when something like this happens, it takes everyone by surprise. You never know what's going on in someone else's mind.

      May 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. BigPic

    This sort of thing seems to happen more often in Florida. Hopefully these kids will not havd died in vain. Florida do something, please?

    May 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Talan7

    This doesn't make sense. 12-17 is old enough not to listen to a parent who wants to shoot and kill you.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RichOne

    I think I'm missing something. If three kids show up at your door shot, would you not get them inside, lock your door, and immediately call 911??? I'm having a hard time fathoming how they managed to get shot a 2nd time. There has to be more to the story that I'm missing here...

    May 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tami

      I agree. I just dont know.

      May 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. This is Tragic

    It doesn't take much to lighten the load on single parents... Words of encouragement, a helping hand, a sympathetic ear... I don't know what made this woman do this horrible thing, I hope this kind of thing never has to happen again... If you know someone whom is struggling with parenting... If you can't offer help, at least offer a smile and kind words... It can make a difference...

    May 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. RealGunOwner

    CNN hasn't included that the authorities had visited the house three consecutive days prior to the shooting. That woman was an abussive monster, and I wish she would have done herself in first. At least the kids could have done something with their lives.

    May 16, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SUE

    Florida do something. Really how about father should have done something. If you have a bunch of kids its not the states obligation to parent them it would be yours. Florida please you are a joke

    May 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. MisterPL

    The mother did one thing right; she raised three obedient kids.

    May 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
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