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. Hahahaha

    Glad they are not white.... lol dodges a bullet with this one..

    May 22, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. abd

    why would a christian woman do that !!

    May 22, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Randy from Tulsa

      Well you gotta think-christians talk to imaginary people-they are delusional..thats a start at explaining this,just like all the other religeous fanatics that kill thier children and say "god told me to do it"

      May 22, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Adam

    This is BY FAR one of the saddest stories i have ever read ! For anyone to even let the thought go through their head of doing this to their kids has to be COMPLETELY PSYCHEDELIC !

    May 22, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Yoda

    This is extremely sad. I just do not understand why the neighbor did not pull the kids into the house and dial 911. Why the hell would they let them go back to the house if they had seen them bleeding. I have yet to understand some people in this world. These were kids, and NO CHILD deserves this.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Deborah

    This is so sad, unfortunately it doeesn't matter how many times the mother reloaded the end result is the same.
    Race is not an issue either. Just the saddest thing, it is happening with alarming frequency. The whole world has gone MAD...and they are taking it out on the children !! Nobody is safe....

    May 22, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • jason

      this is not happening more often; it just seems like it because everyone is connected to the internet 24 hour news cycle

      May 22, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. curt

    People in this world are becomming such cowards and self interested lunatics. I know, lets cut education more!

    May 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. curt

    The neighbor probably was trying to get them out of the house; by texting them. What the hell world do we live in.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Hello

    this so called mom would have k!11ed anyone who might have insulted or harmed one of her kids and she goes and murderer's ALL them in cold blood.
    She should have used only one bullet for herself. kids would have gotten over it and moved on...
    MOMMY FAILED.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. chris

    I feel horrible when I think of the horrors those kids faced in the last minutes of their lives.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. SPUD

    Where's Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson!?

    May 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dem

    Obviously white people are to blame...
    What does Spike Lee saying about it?

    May 22, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zod

      He allready is preparing a script for a movie where the mom was secretly possessed by the evil spirit of a white man......who had her shoot the kids then herself...

      May 22, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Hai

    Actually she would have re-loaded FOUR times. She had to load the round that she used on herself.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob

      No, she would have loaded 4 times, but only had to re-load 3 times as the article correctly states.

      May 22, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • RussTnuts

      That's a pretty high hit ratio...mommy must have been trained by the US military.

      May 22, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. alan calvo

    May the mom rot in hell,and the kids are in gods arms.......haveing and enjoying what we cant comprihend. Peace ! al cal.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • braydenmaine

      what if the kids were conspiring to kill her, but she aquired the gun and then after killing them in defense, just felt depressed?

      May 22, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Randy from Tulsa

    They didn't know who the father was,every one of them was by a different guy.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • gene

      They had same last name, maybe the father was killed serving this country. You're bout as lame as peter.

      May 22, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. deutsche001

    If you claim to be a Christian than stop with spewing your hateful, slanderous lies.
    Stop worrying about other people. The judgement will be up to God, not you.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23