‘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. no nothing

    Is it me , or is the world becoming a more dangerous place? you can't even trust your own family any more.

    May 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • cheryl

      Yes, and at biblical proportions.

      May 16, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • SPW

      Crime rates have actually been going down, just stories like that have become frequent, like that guy who murdered his wife and got away with it only to kill his children later.

      May 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • IB

      I'd venture to say that "the home" is a lot more dangerous than "the world."

      May 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. GDC

    and where were the neigbours???? if they had gone to save themselves then to be called back to actually be killed what did the neighbours do???? How could they let those kids go back to get killed?? shamefull!

    May 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • anna

      Did they know they were going to get killed?

      May 16, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lily

      Too bad you didn't live next door. Maybe you could've stoped the bullets. Idiot!
      You should read a book and learn how to spell!

      May 16, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • GreedyGussie

      Lily – how about this: grab the kids, lock the door, dial 911 – in that order. According to CNN, the kids told the neighbor their mom was shooting at them. From your post I'm making the assupmtion that you would have sent them back too. Inexcusable.

      May 16, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. robertopp

    Another four frags for the National Rifles Association!

    May 16, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      I wasn't aware anyone fomr the NRA was present at the shooting.

      "Another leftist troll" is more accurate.

      May 16, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. dreamer96

    If this was a movie script it would be called unbelievable..and never made...Life is far stranger, and sadder, then most of us can imagine.. Why did those kids go back home when they mother called to them???

    May 16, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jorge

    Some creepy, sick people out there. The scary part is that they go to spectacular lengths to APPEAR NORMAL. Chances are if someone at work or somewhere you frequent makes you uncomfortable or gives you the willies, staying away from him/her is a VERY GOOD IDEA.

    May 16, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. T Man

    I find putting into words my grief almost impossible. I am a single father of one, allow me to be the first to pledge that if I ever get to that last breaking point where it just doesn't really matter anymore, I will off myself and not my child, in fact I wll make sure that my child believes that it was a total accident and not have to live with the stigma of a chld with a parent who killed themselves.
    My prayers to the family and friends.

    May 16, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • This is Tragic

      T man... so true... I have children the same age as these children and older... I told my children last night if I ever get so crazy in the head and attempt to do something like this... I gave my children permission to kick my butt and send me to hell... My heart is hurting for this tragedy... but on a lighter side... I also told them that if I ever turn Zombie, that they need to take me out and not lock me in the basement thinking that one day there will be a cure...

      May 16, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • anna

      How could it be an accident??
      Perhaps this woman thought rather than leave her children to perhaps be put into seperate foster homes and not knowing how they would be thought it better to take them with her.

      May 16, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RealLife


    May 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MyOpinion

    I wonder if the kids went back to their house because they thought that if they did not, their mom may kill their brother (whom she has shot first). I can see that more as a possibility for these 12-17 yr olds to go back to be shot again, than for them to be under the mom's power-hold. Unbelievable.

    It is even more tragic and heart-wrenching to know that the 3 kids had a chance......and went back to the monster who murdered them in cold blood.

    What IS going on in Florida? Why are these off-the-hook cases coming out of there?

    May 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rich

    Announced over the loud speaker? That's nice. No in-person assembly to break the devastating news that may potentially require some councilling. Nope just a regular announcement no doubt alongside the time of the local football game....classy.

    May 16, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Leigh2

    Only the good die young. Bless those children and may heaven be cradling them all. May they know no more heartache or despair or pain or confusion at seeing the one person who was supposed to love and cherish them fired the shots from a gun pointed at them which ended their precious lives. I can't imagine anyone killing 4 of their own children, especially the babies which came from their own bodies. Hard to get one's mind around. So very sad and troubling. :=(

    May 16, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Why?

    I am so saddened when I read this. I am a mother of two and can't imagine ever doing any harm to them! I know I was not there but my question is: why would the neighbor allow them to go back over to the house? Maybe this terrible tragedy could have been avoided...

    May 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Oh my

    Another case of screwed up life syndrome and the kids were the ones punished for it. You don't breed what you can't feed..

    May 16, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • anna

      Unfortunately people just dont seem to get this message.

      May 16, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Unbelievable

    I don't understand why these children when they fled for their lives and let a neighbor know they had been shot, why on this green earth would the neighbor let them go back. They could have taken the children in bolted for safety, locked the home, call 911 for ambulance and police with urgency. To let them go back how can that neighbor live with themself. Also sad that they would think if they didn't return their sibling would have died however, they should have stayed and forced the mother to come out of the house and maybe she would have just simply did herself in. I hope she rots in hell and I could never live with myself if I would have been the one to let them return home after being told their mother shot them???? Lord have mercy on the nuts in this world there are far too many of them anymore.

    Sad really 4 children gone without living life and what was really going on in the house that the son acted out in such a manner. However, nothing is ever this bad to shoot your child. If you are fed up do yourself in, my goodness, just a bunch of cowards out here killing the innocent and then themselves.

    May 16, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    And she didn't lock her kids in the trunk of her car and drive them into a lake! She used the most frequently used weapon of choice in murder/homicides in this country! The NRA must be very proud today!

    May 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    The most frequently used weapon of choice in murder/suicides!

    May 16, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • improvementsahead

      to bad she didn't use a knife right? How unoriginal of her to use a gun in stead of a knife, a baseball bat, or board with a nail in it.

      May 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
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