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. flip

    This is a crying shame, why she had only one gun to use, and NOT an automatic. The Florida legislature should act quickly to assure that its citizens should be mandated to have at least one assult rifle.

    May 23, 2012 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
  2. flip

    Plus extended clips!

    May 23, 2012 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
  3. flip

    they were all wearing hoodies, and eating skittles at the time

    May 23, 2012 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  4. Nate

    very sad story. I will pray for these children find some peace.

    May 23, 2012 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
    • CrabMeat

      It's too late to pray for the children. They're dead.

      May 23, 2012 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan Paul

      Too bad the mother didn't shoot herself FIRST!

      May 23, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  5. Nikki

    Glad what is most important to all of you is the MATH. Here's my math, 4 innocent children died, and 1 mother. Hmmm. I THINK that makes 5. Who wants to jump on this comment?

    May 23, 2012 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. You MF'ers disgust me.

    I don't know what bothers me more...the fact that four innocent children are dead, the system failed yet another person with obvious trauma and mental illness or the callous and cruel and borderline racist comments by some of these losers on this thread. You computer cowards are destroying America one hateful comment at a time.

    May 23, 2012 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. roundlakejim

    It is a Taurus TCP. It is a 6+1 rounds .380 Auto semi-auto pistol. But that is not important. The important thing to focus is why the mother had to kill 4 beautiful children of her own. This is so sad.

    May 23, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. ThePreacherTheTeacher

    EXHIBIT A: MENTAL ILLNESS RUINS INNOCENT LIVES AND CAN KILL. It's no use blaming the mother, she was not responsible for her condition. It's time that society and the insurance industry take these issues as seriously as heart disease and cancer: Stop the stigma and start proper coverage for treatment.

    May 23, 2012 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. charles bowen

    Sad story too bad she did the right thing last.....Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    May 23, 2012 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. terry

    Good thing she didn't have anything sharp... someone could have been hurt!

    May 23, 2012 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  11. saddened55998

    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. – What the heck – didn't the neighbors stop the kids from going back to the house. Those neighbors need to be charged.

    May 23, 2012 at 8:57 am | Report abuse |
  12. NotAmused

    This is just a cowardly act buy a deranged individual and I'm tired of people making excuses for these people. There's no question you blame the mother.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  13. Marco

    I wish we could see follow up stories from CNN on the coroner's toxicology reports and police investigation. I'd be interested to know if drug abuse played a role in these killings (prescription abuse or illicit drug use).

    May 23, 2012 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  14. Secret {Police

    who needs math classes? these posts are so useless. If this mother had a mental illness that went untreated, thats really a shame cause im sure this all would have been avoided. The flip side is....shes a single mom with 4 kids...who knows if she didnt just flip out all the sudden after a heated argument...and hey, thank god for hand guns, since you know they protect your family right? I know there are instances where the 'family gun' actually does some good...but statistics show you're more likely to be shot by that gun and its very sad that seems to be true in this case...i hope all you gun nuts can sleep at night knowing ur 'freedom' does so much good

    May 23, 2012 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  15. kayaker247

    mental illness is a scary thing. it would be nice if suicidal people just killed themselves. leave the children to find their own way.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
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