Florida mother fired 18 shots at kids before killing self, medical examiner says
Tonya Thomas shot her four children to death before killing herself, police in Florida say.
May 22nd, 2012
04:52 PM ET

Florida mother fired 18 shots at kids before killing self, medical examiner says

[Updated at 4:52 p.m. ET] The Florida woman who killed her four children before committing suicide last week used jacketed hollow-point bullets fired at very close range, no more than 2 feet away, according to the Brevard County District Medical Examiner.

Medical Examiner Sajid Qaiser said Tonya Thomas, 33, fired a Taurus .38-caliber gun, hitting her children 18 times before taking her own life. Most of the wounds on Pebbles Johnson, 17; Jaxs Johnson, 15; Jazzlyn Johnson, 13; and Joel Johnson, 12, were on the fronts of their bodies, indicating they were shot as their mother faced them, Qaiser said.

Qaiser said none of the children or their mother had major defensive wounds, indicating that there was no significant struggle before or during the shootings. Thomas then placed the gun in her mouth and pulled the trigger, killing herself.

Qaiser said he noticed changes in Thomas' liver and ordered toxicology screens on Thomas and all of her children. The full autopsy will not be released until those results come back, which could take several weeks, Qaiser said.

"I know everyone thirsty to know why (the children) were not able to escape out of the house, how come one person shot their children so many times," he said. "But we don't have all of the information yet."

Jazzlyn was shot the most, seven times. The gunshots perforated her lung three times as well as her spleen, pancreas, stomach and spine, Qaiser said.

Joel was shot five times. Jaxs took three bullets in his chest.

“Many of the shots were taken at contact range," Qaiser said. "You can tell from the wounds and the clothing that the muzzle of the gun was pressed against the clothing, the body."

Pebbles was also shot three times.

Gun store owner Herb Stratton told Florida Today that the Taurus .38-caliber can hold six shots, meaning Thomas reloaded three times during the shootings.

Police said last week that three of the children had gone to a neighbor's house in Port St. John to say their mother had shot them. Thomas then called them back home before killing them.

Police said last week that they didn't know of a motive in the shooting. Friends and court documents, however, revealed that Jaxs and his mother were having difficulties.

James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, said last week that the circumstances appear to be a case of "suicide by proxy," in which a family member takes the lives of loved ones "out of a warped sense of love" before killing herself.

"Typically, the perpetrator is suicidal, feels life is miserable and doesn't want to go on," Fox said. "But why does she take her children? Because she wished to be reunited with them in the afterlife or wants to spare them the misery of this life."

soundoff (524 Responses)
  1. cc

    saving them the misery of life my foot.i am from the old school in those days ,you get to know your neighbor and your neighbor you and your child. it took a whole village in those days to raise a child. Lord where did those day go.now days people dont want you saying anything to their children.they rather model their thoughts after what bill cosbey on the tv show ...I brought you in this world and i,ll take you out. most woman of to day say that about a sassy child. i have even said it myself but in my heart i never ment it.lets be real ..parents, this woman was in trouble, her mind was sick.where was sisterhood,caring neighbor. they say they have neighbor watch, where was they..oh well i guess they was staying to them self.get to know your neighbor.you are your bother keeper.what happen in the neigborhood happen to the whole neighborhood.every child in that commuity need to seek conseling.the mother needs to band together and show a lot of love to ever child that they can hug.iwish i had known her.REST IN PEACE family of SORROW

    May 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jake

    Some of the facts seem to be skewed in the media reports. The neighbors didn't know who was the shooter and thought the younger boy Joel might be the shooter, he was the one told he couldn't come in. The children may not have even know their mother was the shooter until after they returned to the house. According to the neighbor's statement, all 3 kids were not standing at the door trying to come in, they were spread out and the husband was outside dealing with them while the wife was on the phone. If you listen to the 911 call, there's definite confusion about what's going on. It's not clear what's happening until after the kids go back to their mother and more shots are fired. This is supported by the fact that the kids were shot at close range. If they knew their mom was going to shoot them, why would they let her get so close?

    It's human nature to protect your own family when there's a gunmen in the neighborhood and you have no idea who's shooting or why. These weren't small kids, they were known troublemakers. If you hear gunfire and someone starts banging on your door in the middle of the night, are you really going to let them in? C'mon.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Really

    Tati and Larknark – you guys are correct – the gun nuts have taken over this county and rationalize the need for every one to carry guns because (get this) you need to protect yourself from everyone who is carrying guns.

    I am much more concerned with the paranoid gun carrying neighbor than any potential gang member wanting to do me or my family violence.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. the_dude

    These kids were terrorizing the neighborghood anyways. I bet all the residents on that street are breathing a sigh of relief. No more useless mom and horrible kids running loose.

    May 22, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justa

      And you know this...how?

      May 22, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. PS

    A society with no values only gets worse when you throw guns and ammunition in the mix! Second Amendment my foot!

    May 22, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BB

    do people really care about this

    May 22, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Art

    Great comment! I was just about to say the same thing – it was reloaded TWICE.

    May 22, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. EPaul

    Uh oh...overlooked one bullet my friend. The Bullet that took the life of that disgusting excuse for a mother and human being (actually quite normal for a human to kill things so I take that back). 18 bullets + 1 for the Nut!

    May 22, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike Brown

    My sympathies to the loved one. The article mentions the woman was in hard times. I assume she was not well educated, else she would have done better to get out of the mess. Eldest kid is 17 years old and youngest one is 12 years. So in 5 years she had 4 kids while knowing well she won't be able to support them. I guess there lies the problem in this case

    May 22, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mas8baller

    Obama & democrats must be proud. A democrat & obama supporter with a gun who killed their kids & then themselves flies in the face of everything they accuse Republicans of doing & shows that guns dont kill people do especially democrats. usually it's someone's kids though.

    May 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. denise flowers

    Wow some people are so crazy in this world.

    May 22, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hadenuffyet

      That's a bit beyond crazy...

      May 22, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. michael

    Don't forget the re-bar.

    May 22, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. oh?

    Not very good at math are you. 6 bullets, 18 shots fired at kids. Lets see load the gun with 6 bullets, fire 6, load 6 more, now 12 have been fired, load the gun again with 6 bullets, now 18 shots have been fired, now how should she kill herself? Oh load it one more time, for a total of 1 initial load, and three reloads.

    May 22, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Samuel

    Hey Pebbles!

    BAM! BAM!

    May 22, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joseph

      hey Samuel, give me more sucky please

      May 22, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tired_Of_All_The_Violence

    You're correct. Although the gun would have been loaded 3 times to get 18 shots,

    from the time she started this insanity until it was over, she would have reloaded on 2 times.

    Gotta love CNN and their Grade school editing staff for their wonderful reporting.

    My German Shepherd can do a better editing job!!!

    May 22, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
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