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. Donnie the Lion

    This is a tragic incident, no question. What continues to concern me, though, is the enormous effort to declare unborn children effectively citizens, with full rights, and yet when they are born, children seem to be treated as property of the parents, allowing the parents to really treat them however they want unless extensive paperwork is filed and interventions are conducted. Parenting children should be a CHERISHED HONOR.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  2. SABoy

    Beautiful kids whose future was taken from them. Very sad, a real tragedy.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Chill Out

      Deprived of a bright future incarcerated or freeloading welfare handouts. The mother saved them from that inevitable destiny.

      May 23, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  3. CJ

    This lady was obviously insane. How was she allowed to have a gun?

    Our system is broken. Crazy people should not be allowed to have guns.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Nic

      CJ..how can you tell if someone is crazy? Does a person have it tattooed on their forehead, their shoulder,or arm? Most insane people can appear to be sane when they NEED to be.

      May 23, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Sure, but first you've got to figure out that they're not normal. Not always a simple thing.

      May 23, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Judge Dredd

      Crazy people should not be allowed to live. Think about it, we are messing with nature when we protect crazy people. The kid who drinks bleach should not be able to live long enough to see puberty. Stop interfering with nature.

      May 23, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • AM

      Not that I necessarily disagree with you...but let's say I own a handgun, and at time of purchase I am "sane"...6 months later, become depressed and suicidal...how are you proposing to regulate that? And for the record, at least in MD, they run background checks on you to make sure you haven't been in a mental facility prior to allowing you to purchase a handgun.

      May 23, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  4. Really !!!!

    REALLY!!!! Its amazing that the majority of the folks on here are taking up the debate on RELOAD...what is wrong with you ppl.. These very young kids are dead and there MOTHER killed them. Does it really matter which one of you win this debate?? ...NO everyone looses here.

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

    Poor babies. They are all so cute and look so happy. Heartbreaking.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. SophieCat

    Should there ever be an occasion when my neighbor's children come to me to report their mother shot them, you can be damn sure they aren't going back home just because she "called them back". That's just crazy talk. Why didn't the neighbor take action? Jesus, people! GET INVOLVED, why don't you!!

    May 23, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Dana

      I said the exact same thing, but when I listened to the 911 tapes, the neighbors were so confused and told the dispatcher that a few times. They were not sure who had the gun. I am sure they are beating themselves up over this and will for the rest of their lives. Such a sad situation.

      May 23, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jokesterer

    Nice to know the bullets were jacketed hollow points. But what grain of round was used?

    May 23, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. Sharky

    It's funny watching gun nuts argue over a math problem.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  9. George

    The problem is that these crazy people go about it the wrong way. they should committ suicide first, then shote other people...

    May 23, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  10. George

    The problem is that these crazy people go about it the wrong way. they should committ suicide first, then shoot other people...

    May 23, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  11. Phil

    My God. This story just chills me. Those poor kids. No major defensive wounds. They just stood there and looked at their mother while she killed them. They didn't fight her. They even WENT BACK TO THE HOUSE WHEN SHE CALLED THEM BACK! They watched their siblings die, knowing they were next, and just stood there while she reloaded. Jesus Christ help this world.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  12. russ

    exercising her second amendment remedies

    May 23, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. tim ethier

    300 million guns–mostly handguns–and people wonder why over 30,000 people (FBI website) die each year? Florida's gun laws are among the most lax in the country and the results once again are the deaths of innocents. Our nation's gun laws are insane–no private citizen should have a concealable handgun and the bullets used in these killings should be banned as well. Chalk this one up once again to all of the gun nuts out there and to the NRA, the worst terrorist organization in the history of this planet. More people are killed with guns each month then were killed on 9/11.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. L2679

    this is a sad case, but i will never understand as a mother how a women can take the lives of their own, or anyone take a life for that matter....but this is sad children and they way it happend just adds to the saddness....its insane...no questions asked and for anyone trying to make it seem she had a problem like it condones the killings has just a worse problem than her....no child deserves to lose their life..they havent even lived it yet

    May 23, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  15. bhood

    Thats hood... Where da hood at

    May 23, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
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