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. Tommy

    Why think god. It's not like you'll be going there.

    May 23, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. RURU

    Thats Not Good People Are just Killing Ever bodt

    May 23, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • CME

      *disgust, that's embarrassing

      May 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. FactsRBad

    Individuals who post racist, hateful remarks are self loathing, typically failures at life who need someone to blame other than themselves. Typcial targets for these self loathing failures are African Americans, illegal aliens, and Jews.

    May 23, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son.

      @ FactsRBad
      For the record I’m not a racist and I don’t enjoy their comments. But you are doing just what you accuse them of.
      Pot meet kettle.

      May 23, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • A. K. Russey

      This indeed is tragic. Compassion goes out to the friends and family of those that have died in this devasting manner. I pray for God's mercy and grace upon individuals that have been so consumed with evil and hatred. Love stems from God. Evil and hatred comes from darkness and elements beneath the pits of hell. Side note: I am a God fearing, God loving American too. Mental health is real. It is apparent and evident that the mother was mentally unstable just like the racist and evil attention seekers on this post. Please seek pychiatric help and a sedative before the FBI and The Mental Health Authorities view your computer's IP address. I encourage you to remember the Act of the U.S. Congress that was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. In the event that some of you desire to use "Freedom of Speech", just know that there a consequences for violations and uncivil behaviors.

      May 23, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tommy

    My question would be why would someone not let them in. Not a God thing or good samaritan thing. But how would someone be able to watch children suffer. No way in hell. Would I have not let those kids in.

    May 23, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Teabag Tebow

    "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."

    Why would three of the children leave the house to say their mother had shot them, then go back home? I'm I reading this wrong?

    May 23, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Julie S

      Because the neighbor (who was himself armed with a gun), told them he wasn't letting them in. The kids had nowhere to go.

      May 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Random

    That is really bad for you to say, but that just shows the level of stupid people still left in our country. God Bless you Sir, because you need it.

    May 23, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. Why Argue

    Why is everyone arguing about this??? lets them rest in peace, if you want to play detective become one. The facts are laid out, she was a selfish person who wanted to kill her self , but was selfish enough to take down her innocent kids too. Thats the life we live in, filled with crazy people and unexpected tragedies. May the innocent rest in peace, but really why argue and bash one another?

    May 23, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. c

    I am compelled to say to you Joe D, that when someone becomes so cynical and hatefull at the death children (regardless of race) you have truly catapulted into the abyss.

    May 23, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  9. Teresa

    This is so terribly sad. Obviously there was mental illness and possible substance abuse involved. The stress of raising four teenagers alone would be enormous on any mother, but this lady was only 33 years old. She had the first child at 16, the next at 18, the next at 20, and the final at 21. In a society were asking for help is vilified and receiving help when the stress is too great is almost impossible, I can well imagine why she lost her mind. It is too bad that she had to take the children with her! My biggest questions though are not how or why it happened, but WHY did four teen aged children return to a home where their mother had already shot at them? Was it because she was threatening to kill herself if they didn't? And WHY on earth did the neighbor who they asked for help not hide the children and call the cops, rather than allowing them to respond to their mother's call and return to the slaughter? Something is NOT adding up in that aspect of the story!

    May 23, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • jimbo

      The biggest questions are "why did she have so many kids at such an early age? How was she going to support them, if not on welfare"? No mention of the father(s). A sad commentary on what is wrong with America today.

      May 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. zzzzzz

    If there is god, why does he/she allow these type of people to have kids?! And why do some people who are fit to be parents can't have children of their own?

    May 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • 1plus1

      God "allows" this type of thing to happen because he isn't real.

      May 23, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Laurie

    Joe D are you for real? These kids are adorable. How can you make that comment. And I bet Joe D. isn't even your real name because racists like yourself are chickens. You are a sociopath with no feelings.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Alf

    four innocent children r murder n that's ur comment; dirt bag

    May 23, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Seaton

    This is a horrible tragedy but I can't feeling there's much more that we don't know, because these articles leave SO much out. How is it the neighbor let the kids go back to the house? If they were shot why would they voluntarily return? How could she have gotten off 18 rounds on a 6 shooter, reloading twice, and none of the kids rushed her or ran away? And how could she have fired at point blank range continuously – why didn't the children run? (in which case the shots would be from a distance to the back)... thoughts?

    May 23, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. msimms7501

    Shame on this person for saying something so cruel. Shame. Shame on you. Shame.

    May 23, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Wondering Issue

    Were the kids drugged in any way?

    May 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
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