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. Lee Oates

    In a society where poverty is becoming the norm, medicine is the right of the rich, and social nets are being cut by the 1%, what else would you expect. Thise incidents will increase dramatically in the near future as hardships increase.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kay10

    Bet she was aDemocrat that didn't like the CHANGE.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronin

      I hope you have children and if Mittens gets in the WH..the same happens to your children , nieces or nephews ...

      May 22, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • VJ

      Only a sick psychopath can think of politics at this time. Grow up and get a life.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • KellyinBoston

      Gross and disgusting comment. Innocent children have lost their lives. What is wrong with you?

      May 22, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. victor

    The mother would have said, "Come back kids, I did it wrong, you are not dead yet. Come back for more bullets, kids."

    But why the hell that the kids return to their house to be killed, that is unbelievable.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • paulronco

      She was their mother. They must not have believed she was going to do it. The whole nation's in shock, for God's sake. Where else would they have gone to? In the end they believed they would be going back to the house anyway; the cops and Child Protective Services screw stuff like this up all the time. Even the homicide detectives are saying that this type of shooting is extremely rare.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Monica S

    May these children rest in peace. Obviously the mother was very troubled and it is unfortunate she did not get the help she needed. My prayers to this family.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • susan25

      Could someone just shoot 18 bullets into this fiend and not bother with a trial and save the tax-payers?

      May 23, 2012 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |

    Cut the crap,damned tired of excuses both by women liberals and balless psychoanalyst and especially the perpetrators of the crimes that poverty, divorced parents, too many kids too young to have kids, whatever, a damn victim society is only possible because those of afult age never grew up.
    All the damn eurocentric nations peoples have become wards of the state, so much so they are of little use to even themselves.
    The State knows that servitude depens upon a complacent and dependent populace,children.
    To of reduced personal responsability and placed it in the hands of those wjo profit from that lack of individual character, has turned humanity into no more than bees of the hive mentality.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • angela birch

      The euro centric countries people are wards of the state. Yup that is why they have a 3-5% unemployment rate. I have a branch of my company in 2 European counties. Denmark and the UK. I have found my employees in both countries to be better educated, more prepared to work. They work hard and my branches in theUK, Denmark and Canada are much more profitable than the branch in the US, mainly because of our outdated medical system that is much more expensive and much less effective. In Europe the Europeans pay their way, everyone pay and everyone gets care. The citizens are not wards of the state the state is run by the citizens ( they vote there you know). They also in countries like Finland, Norway, Iceland have budget surpluses, low unemployment and a higher standard of living than the US.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Everyman

      You may want to go back on your meds.

      May 23, 2012 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Shutup!

      First, learn to spell – then keep your idiotic opinions to yourself!

      May 23, 2012 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
  6. G

    Another one in Oregon today.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. billybob

    "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."

    Wow... the children DID escape and the neighbor let them return to the crazy parent... what kind of stupid neighbor is that!??

    May 22, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. DavidInAustin

    You seem to be deeply into the whole black/white hatred thing. Enjoy.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. victor

    Too many useless words were dedicated in comments to the useless animal who did this.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Charlott

    Four beautiful children gone to soon May they Rest In Paradise.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bob

    Guns don't kill people...people kill people. No wait. Guns DO kill people.

    How many handguns running loose? Hundreds of millions.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shutup!

      Dead On Bob – living in Canada and Europe, where we very, very rarely hurt people with guns, outlaw them, get them off the streets and teach people how to use them. Get some health care, especially for the at risk mentally ill – and stop the RIGHT WINGED conservative crap! One World Peeps.

      May 23, 2012 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
  12. angela birch

    Another military family stressed beyond being able to cope.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. stanyergroun

    The kids jumped her. It was self-defense. She was just standing her ground.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. forreal89

    no kid deserves that sad

    May 23, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  15. BigRed

    Not religious or anything, but that woman is in hell and will suffer through all eternity. Such people burn for all time in the deepest pits of hades.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • fvsfs

      Then you are religious

      May 23, 2012 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
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