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. the law

    unbelievable, I'll never understand why a person like this would take her kids out ,and just kill her self....

    May 23, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. A-Nicole

    I feel sorry for people who feel they need to post racist comments on these blogs. The same person who is saying "5 less black people on the earth...it was getting overwhelming" needs to look into his ignorant self and search for some compassion and equality. This is a sad story, regardless of race. I am a black woman and I'm sure you see black women everyday and don't say these racist comments to them. But instead, you wait behind your computer screen where you can get all your hate out. Think about becoming a better person instead of thinking about the next racist thing you will say. You should truly be ashamed.

    May 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cindy

    The kids should have been let in, and the police should have been called. The kids would have been alive today, if someone cared enough to help them. The neighbor was wrong.

    May 23, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. PJGordonRN

    Because God gives us free will. It's just so sad.

    May 23, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ZandH

    IS CNN getting lazy or not? A lot of times the news is just briefly report without further elaborate. In this case why the neighbor didn't let the kids in or call the police for the alert? If the kids knew their mother going to shoot them there was no reason for them to return home. This news report is only partial done, shouldn't be posted in blog.

    May 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. whats the world coming to

    just horrible and nauseating. she lost her mind somewhere something serious to have done it, but to have been able to unload over and over ripping into her own childrens bodies like that. had to been one of the most horrible crime scenes ever. sad. prayers to the family. and to think certain government officials want to defund planned parenthood, they should be increasing funding!!!

    May 23, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Danielle

    This is so disappointing. This violates the very relationship between mother and daughter or son. These children obviously trusted their mother, just as you and I do, and she killed them. I am utterly horrified that anyone could do this.

    May 24, 2012 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Name*Talisha G

      This is just sad. but for the children rest in peace. and to the person that this willhurt the most. speaking for the children when I say this( thank you when I ran to you for help you turned us around I'm gone now). People when children run to you for help help them. by any means necessary

      May 24, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Check out this kid

    How selfish of that woman to take their lives.. they just began to live and she took that chance from them.

    May 24, 2012 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. Eileen

    Devastating! Horrific! All of the thoughts of bullets, re-loading and why this or that, really do not matter at this point, a whole family is gone and we as humans must deal with that,,, my prayers go out to the family of these people...

    May 24, 2012 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    It doesn't matter how many times she loaded and reloaded. What dkoes matter is that these four beautiful children are gone. My prayers go out to the friends and relatives.

    May 24, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  11. LovePastorWinans

    This is horrible!! I can't even say more.

    May 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JH

    Speechless 🙁

    May 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. nadinesh

    Get the damned guns out of our country's streets and homes! Before this insane availability of enough guns to arm the entire world a few times over in our poor country alone, this woman would not have been able to murder all her children. guns kill people–and they kill more people than squirrels.

    May 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Last of the Jedi

      How many guns fly up in the air and kill people? None.If she would have used a baseball bat would you ban baseball?How about using a car to kill them?Then you ban cars.Its beyond aweful this happened.There needs to be more mental and spiritual help for overwhelmed people.To much stress and pressure in life.Guns are tools.People need to be responsible with them and the media needs to quit glorifing gun violence!

      May 25, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. nadinesh

    Guns are proving to be the death of our democracy. We live in a sick country, which has horribly lost its way.

    May 24, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bigmamma

    This is sad. I hve seven children and never once thought to do anything like that. I did have support from friends. Few family. But it was my choice to bring them here. I could never kill them,but she must have been going through a lot. RIP children. God was waiting for you.

    May 24, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
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