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. em

    for all you idiots who are debating how many times the mother reloaded.....who gives a #@!%!!!! whether she reloaded 3, 4, or 20 times....the point is is that 4 beautiful children are dead.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jay Stevens

    @susan25: Learn to read. She shot – and killed – herself.

    May 23, 2012 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mom of Three

    This also happened in the Portland area today with a white family. The dad shot mom and three kids (all under age 8), and then drove to a hotel and shot himself in the car. A few months ago, in the Portland area, an Asian man killed his entire family, and then himself, and ALSO, like the man today, set his house on fire. A couple months ago also, a white man blew himself and his two sons to the sky, after moving from Colorado where he was suspected to have killed his wife. Her body has still not been found. My point is this: Everyone is feeling desperate these days. Mental health care is out of reach for many people in our lovely form of medical system (the man who shot his family today was off his meds). People need to focus on the fact that it's the 1% vs. us, not black, white, Hispanic vs. each other. The 1% loves it when we tear each other apart down here. People are cracking under the pressure. That's not an excuse. But she didn't kill her family because she was Black.

    May 23, 2012 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
    • nishamarie

      So much agree with you! Mental illness is all around us.

      May 23, 2012 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Dakota2000

      Yeh, my brother in law blew his brains out. Could have taken his 5 kids with him. Thank god he did not. We do not even mention his name any more

      The poll numbers don't really tell us how much distress people are in. I am sure this mother, in her twisted way, loved her kids.

      Oh, and what was wrong with the neighbor? If kids came by saying they had been shot, I think I might have at least been a little curious...

      May 23, 2012 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
  4. em

    oh my bad luek! let me re-phrase that for you...the point is is that 4 "yound adults" are dead. take your society crap and shove it

    May 23, 2012 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  5. em

    my bad luek! let me re-phrase that for you...the point is is that 4 "young adults" are dead. hows that? take your society crap & shove it

    May 23, 2012 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  6. John

    The mom was 33 and the oldest daughter was 17???? Did she have the kid when she was 6? No wonder she went crazy!

    May 23, 2012 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
    • damon durham

      math isnt your strong suit eh?

      May 23, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Carroll

      Idiot,,,can you add? No, she was 16 yrs. old. I was 17 yrs. old when i had my first kid; graduated from high school; finished college with a double major degree; worked a career job for 32 yrs and retired @ 52 yrs. old; (oh, i forgot, i have also been married for over 32 yrs.). So, would i recommend having a child that young? of course not! My point however is that being young was not necessarily the reason why she committed this horrid crime.

      May 23, 2012 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
    • CBfromNY

      Ummm, seriously? I'm pretty sure 33 – 17 is 16, not 6.

      May 23, 2012 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      She was 16 not 6 when she had her oldest child. I would agree that tis has more to do with mental illness then the color of her skin.

      May 23, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Lorraine

      33-17=16 not 6 most likely a 6 year old cannot produce children. As this phenomen of a 6 year old having a child (which the child would have to have a female period, (I hope you know that that means) to have a chld.

      May 23, 2012 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
    • LOrraine

      John you need to learn to subtract correctly. Thirty-three take away from seventeen equals sixtenn.
      33 minus 17 equals 16!!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 23, 2012 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      FAIL!!! Check that math again buddy.

      May 23, 2012 at 3:02 am | Report abuse |
    • JD

      SO you're saying 33-17 is 6?......

      May 23, 2012 at 3:38 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kat

    So sad. This is happening all over. I have a feeling it will only get worse as the society we were grown up in crumbles around us. And I guess it has been for a while. We're sheep, ripe for the slaughter.

    May 23, 2012 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
    • jon

      Um....the whole thing stinks. The cops aren't telling the whole story. No kid is gonna stand there while you pump their brothers and sisters full of lead, reload, and fire again, and reload. Cops are probably protecting informants again. Either that or one of their own did it.

      May 23, 2012 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
  8. nishamarie

    🙁 Prayers to the family.

    May 23, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. shavonne G

    This is most definitely a cold cold world we live in. What is going on with our parents today? I just don't understand how you can kill your own children. They are innocent beings that didn't ask to come here. My condolences goes out to this family.

    May 23, 2012 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  10. ...a laurel and hardy handshake......

    With its 200+ million guns, AMERICA IS A TOUGH TOWN .

    May 23, 2012 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. guesswho22

    she wasn't listening to that school psychologist in Louisiana, was she?

    May 23, 2012 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. nc1965

    What in the h e l l is going on in Florida? Is it something in the water?

    May 23, 2012 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. Stevec

    Wow something like this occours and everyone is focused on race,number of bullets and god...if this is the type of society we have become I dont think we deserve to be here anymore.excluding the intelligent few who talked about mental health care the rest are fairly pathetic to read....a women killed her children then herself...its a terrible waist and I am no fan of any race on the stero typical level...gun control ....please....she would have used a knife then.dont talk about judgement from some higher power and use it as an excuse or reason for people to have opinions....have your opinion and share it with the masses but before u decide to go tossing out uneducated nonsense let the people see this for what it is a tragedy....

    May 23, 2012 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. mondaygirl

    That's horrible!

    May 23, 2012 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rick

    @Lucky: Man, you look like attempting to write Chinese using English alphabets.

    May 23, 2012 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
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