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. Jep11

    A .38 only holds five rounds right? My bad, I don't and wouldn't own a revolver so I digress. The amount of reloads isn't important anyway. Four children are dead by their mothers hand/gun.

    May 23, 2012 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. concered

    Taurus makes a .38 that holds 18 plus 1 in the chamber. No reloading then. This makes it very possible for quick shots without the chance to escape. The family is in our prayers.

    May 23, 2012 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jep11

    This story doesn't make sense. The children went to the neighbors house after being shot then returned home after their mother told them to come back, only to be shot again and killed.

    May 23, 2012 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. Dan

    I asked my imaginary friend to look after them.

    May 23, 2012 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Bart Flaster

      She could have add thorough to her resume but for that last shot.

      May 23, 2012 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dana

    One less religious wacko.

    May 23, 2012 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      five less welfare cases.

      May 23, 2012 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dana

    Did I fire 18 shots or only 17?

    May 23, 2012 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jt_flyer

    To be reunited with her kids in the Afterlife. She was believer.

    May 23, 2012 at 7:24 am | Report abuse |
    • flip

      Ain't Christiany great!

      May 23, 2012 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  8. Queen B 504

    Math is not the moral to this story people, This is a sad case. I'm sorry she felt this was her only way out. I pray their souls were saved and I pray for mercy on their mother..

    May 23, 2012 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
  9. planetx

    "[Satan] hates the Lord's people, grudges them all their privileges and all their comforts; and will do what he can to upset them, because he cannot prevail against them. And though the Lord sets such bounds to Satan's rage that he cannot pass, and limits Satan as to manner and time, God is often pleased to allow him to succeed in his rage to a considerable degree - not to gratify Satan, but to humble and prove Christians, to show Christians what is in their hearts, to make them truly sensible of their immediate and absolute dependence upon himself, and to excite them to watchfulness and prayer."
    Please pray for all who is suffering

    May 23, 2012 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
    • flip

      Leave Satan out of this, he didn't pass any of the gun laws that allow people to buy them like a bar of soap.

      May 23, 2012 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  10. steve

    this is why we need mandatory sterilization!

    May 23, 2012 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
    • flip

      this is why we have to disarm america

      May 23, 2012 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. mslisac363

    who cares how many time this crazy woman loaded the gun she was sick and some of you are so stupid. feel so sorry for the kids

    May 23, 2012 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. ChrisC

    If my mother shot me and I escaped to a neighbors for help there is no way in hell I would go back to mommy as she's yelling for me to get back home. I am so confused.

    May 23, 2012 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Carl

      Exactly. How in the world did she get them to run back home?

      May 23, 2012 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
    • flip

      I think you should buy a gun, so that when you go back to your mom you can shoot her like any other normal american.

      May 23, 2012 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  13. Carl

    Did anyone do the math? 4 kids before she was 21 years old? She knows what causes pregnancy right?

    May 23, 2012 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
    • FakeCarl

      You obviously don't know.

      May 23, 2012 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  14. noteabags

    Kids should have been armed in order to protect themselves. Guns don't kill. Wacked out mothers with guns kill.

    May 23, 2012 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • flip

      There is a push in the Florida legislature to mandatory arm each citizen right after 1st grade.

      May 23, 2012 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  15. The Jackdaw

    crazy pants

    May 23, 2012 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
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