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. jekel38

    THE NIEGHBOR'S SHOULD BE CHARGE WITH SOMETHING!!!! the kids said our mother just shot us and they told them to get away from there door!!!

    May 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Angie

    This ONCE AGAIN is not a racism issue!! For Gods sake people.....Someone belches wrong and it is racist. This is a sad situation. I wouldn't wish this on anyone but it is black killing black and for what it is worth there seems to be a lot of that. So saying that racism is playing a part of this is just ignorance on anyone using this thread as a victim crutch. As far as ignorant comments....why do you waste your time reading them? Is it fun? GET OVER IT! I am sick of hearing how black people have it so bad when most of the time they are the ones who are killing their own. Feel sorry for the innocent, ignore the ignorant, and lay blame where it is needed but leave the rest of us out of this.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • RUPerfect

      I agree with you on one thing this is not a racist issue. This is a American issue we are some of the most selfish, greedy, violent, and hypocritical people in the world. This is a tragedy regardless of race. As far as your statement about black people thinking they got it so bad maybe you should read more. The government keeps very good stats on this to prove that you are wrong. Start with this blacks have been the ones hit most by the economy starting with unemployment. Blacks have an unemployment rate twice that of whites due to the economy.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. passing the time @ work

    my prayers to the kids who's lives ended so tragically...the rest of these bloggers who are judging these kids should be ashamed of yourselves. to get a peaceful world, you have to have kindness.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. nt

    ok....how'd you come up with that one??

    May 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Larknark

    Why do you Americans love your guns? Why? Every year there are approximately over 10,000 murders in your country due to people owning guns. Here in Canada where (even though our population is much smaller which has no impact on the ratio) we only have 144 murders due to guns. I live in one of the biggest cities in North America and I am in my forties now. I have never once heard a gun shot in my life living downtown. I do not know one person who owns a gun and I have only seen a real gun maybe twice in my life and that was way up north with a hunting group. I would be very uncomfortable knowing that most of my neighbors owned a gun. You all live in fear and it is very sad.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • edjunkie

      I appreciate the freedoms our county has. And I don't think guns kill people half as much as people kill people. And people don't need guns to kill people. Guns just make it happen a lot faster and safer for the shooter. However, I do not believe that the right to bear arms should include anything more than a 22 or shotgun or pistol. I will never understand how anyone can think they need an AK47 or any kind of automatic weapon (outside of law enforcement or military, that is). I do not believe that curbing the array of guns that can be owned is defiling our rights under the 2nd Amendment.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Canada wrong again

      @Larknark, Mike A. Males, a researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice at the University of California, Santa Cruz, calculated that the murder rate among white American teenagers was "virtually identical" to that of Canadian youth. By contrast, the murder rate among non-white youth in the US was eight times higher than among Canadian youth.
      When you factor out black gun violence, the US murder rate is about the same as France.
      So spare me your lecture. If you believe in multiculturalism, put your money where your mouth is and you take them.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • tati

      That is a mystery to most foreigners, myself included. If you want a revolution in the US, propose taking away guns and see what happens. They do not realize how much better life is w/t guns around b/c they never experience it. I am from one of the largest cities in Eastern Europe and never heard a gun shot in my life until I came to the US.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. phugoid

    how do 4 people get shot multiple times without at least one of them being able to fight back? were they all tied up?
    something isnt right here.....if you were one of those kids dont you think one of the 4 would at least be able to flee, do some kind of resistance? especially if the shooter had to re-load?

    May 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • edjunkie

      Perhaps they went back thinking they could help the mom and sibling? Perhaps they were stunned to see their mother do such a thing. Perhaps she shot the other three as they re-entered the house. One time each to immobilize them then unload the rest to make their demise sure. Maybe she was overwrought with anger and frustration? Perhaps the multiple shots were out of anger?

      May 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Get Used To It

    You want guns? You got guns. Get used to it.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mr. Good

    Four children were murdered and “animals” are leaving racist comments like “good “riddance? I’m not mad at you. I wouldn’t waist the energy. You’re an animal who lacks compassion and purpose. It’s obvious you’re miserable, afraid, and heartless; I meet people like you all the time. If we were face-to-face and you made those comments, I would laugh at you because I find you to be weak. I’m laughing now………

    May 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Canopy

    Lives lost....after the fact its not worth trying to figure out. Prayers for the lost.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. charlize

    who were the neighbors–did they not try to help or realize that the kids had been shot, etc.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Zach

    CNN... Please initiate some comment guidelines like other reputable sites. Many of these comments are disgusting and offer nothing useful. Four gorgeous children were lost, yet many of the posts are cruel and racist. They don't belong here.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • theTH1NKER

      CNN probably leaves the comments section open to reckless behavior because it draws a lot of people who believe their creative talents are stymied on other sites. Thus, increasing readers of their ads. I'm sure most of the troll posters don't truly believe what they write. Their intention is to create chaos and illicit angered responses. They are a community of idiots that chuckle at each others' comments in show of support. I bet a lot of the posters who make racist comments aren't even white. The thrill of the flame war is greater than their pride or self respect. The best course of action is always ignoring. Paying the troll only brings him back every time you wish to cross the bridge.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bigggd

    Sad story.Wonder why the neighbor let the kids go back home after being told they were shot?

    May 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. f1fan61

    sad so sad

    May 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Caveman

    I'll bet the toxicology report comes back positive... No sane person would have done this.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. the_dude

    This story makes about as much sense as a Tyler Perry movie. Either the writer of this article expects us to believe that 3 kids were shot then ran from the home to a neighbors home (all this while being shot) and then went back home when their mom (who shot them) called them back to come home.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
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