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

    I don't get it... If they were able to get to their neighbor's house after getting shot, why in the world did they go back to their mom and let her finish them off? That's pretty dumb, it's like they wanted their mom to finish them off.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Whatsup

      That's what I was wonder as well....and why would any body let the kids go back home if they came knocking on the door claiming they had been shot....something doesn't add up here!!!

      May 22, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Naomi Aoki

      Hmm, maybe they went back because they were OBEYING their mother idiot.

      Please do us all a favor and immediately go crawl back into the cesspool from which you came from troll.

      Thanks sincerely,

      The human race

      May 22, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ATLApplePIE

    My prayers go out to the children of this tragedy and their family and friends.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bucktooth

    Again, where is the Father? People are not taking responsibility of thinking about having children and what comes with that territory. It seems that people just want to reproduce themselves, which may not be such a good thing! You are responsible for them from the womb to the tomb!

    May 22, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. lammy

    only in Florida

    May 22, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JIm P.

    She reloaded twice, not three times assuming she started with loaded chambers. Investigators often make this mistake all the way back to the report on John Kennedy's shooter where they got the time required wrong because they failed to realize he'd start with a loaded gun.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JIm P.

    OK, I stand corrected, forgot she shot herself also and had to reload a third time for that.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. gene

    Gun control isn't crossing you narrow mind.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. gene

    Control means less money for that guy laughing at his fat bank account.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Whatsup

    who cares how many times she reloaded....why did she do it and why would the kids go back after running to the neighbors saying they had been shot....

    May 22, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. beverlyn bagby

    what is the big deal this family is going and memberof family left behind is destroyed from this mishap. God blessed this family there no more pain and only God can judge this lady. Pray for this family, friends and their community to heal. Very sad story.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Naomi Aoki

    Please do us all a favor and immediately go crawl back into the cesspool from which you came from troll.

    Thanks sincerely,

    The human race

    May 22, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MobyDick

    Does the report indicate how many time the "baby momma" shot herself?

    May 22, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Debunker

      Who was the baby momma 2000yrs ago?????

      May 22, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck Bolanis

      reading this story, along with the majority of the subsequent comments, tells me that we have no hope... 🙁

      May 22, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      "Thomas then placed the gun in her mouth and pulled the trigger, killing herself" I'm going to say just once but.. you never know.. Read the story before commenting.. LOL

      May 22, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ross

    Why would the kids go back to the home when their mother called them? I suppose no one will ever know.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lew

    So Sad. God bless them all.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joe Smith

    Feel sad for those kids... They look like good group of kids and didn't deserve that.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
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