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. joe

    What do you call this that you're reading? Not news? Enough with the race card already, it helps no one...

    May 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. willie

    this is so sad innocent kids died why

    May 22, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. MiLisa

    At the end of the day it does not matter the race of the victims or their financial status in life. Four children were murdered by their mother. They were innocent victims. I am so sick of those who hide behind a computer screen and spout those ignorant racist comments. It is 2012. It is time to let it go.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bluebird

    This story is very very confusing. Children who were shot multiple times went to a neighbor's house for help yet returned when their mom-the shooter-called them. Huh! Did anybody call the police? Why didn't the neighbors help? Why did the kids go back home to their mom aka the shooter? Once again, I'm confused.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • WDinDallas

      It is meant to be confusing. CNN is trying to evolve this story into a racist hate crime. Wait until tomorrow.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Nana

    This is just another sad case of a Mother taking lives of innocent children. I really don't understand, but I do know one thing it is NOT LOVE that drives them to this point.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Brandon

    Oh my god... this is horrific. So sad!

    May 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RealGunOwner

    A Taurus revolver holding 6 rounds would be the 327 Mag. That's not a .38. The .38 is a five round capacity model. I own both models from Taurus and use the .38 as a backup weapon on my ankle. She would have had to re-load 4 times with a 5 round capacity, and unless she had the speed loaders that takes about a minute to empty and then re-load the five rounds. Not something you could do under duress. Something must have been wrong with the children too. Just sayin.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Solex

      It is NOT the fault of the children that they were murdered.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Heart Ache

    My heart aches for these 4 beautiful children. May they rest in peace!

    May 22, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    All you people need to just get a life.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. George Campbell

    This is NOT suicide by proxy!!! Also known as suicide by cop, it is when you force another person to kill you thinking that you are going to do harm to others. THIS WAS MURDER followed by SUICIDE. Regardless of the way that this mother took the lives of her children it is an abomination!! I will NEVER understand how a mother could do harm like this to her own children. Point blank range pulling the trigger 7 times on one child. She either wanted them dead fast or was in total rage.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. joshua

    it a pity that those children idied in thier cold blood,ho GOO this is bad ho God am sad please in your infinite mercy grant them peace and entanalife in your bossom in Jesus name amen.please God put an end to thiis and percify our soul in Jesus name amen.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. KImberly

    Compassion, folks! Children, four innocent children, lost their lives to a selfish woman who did not care, let alone, love, her children. Take a moment to pray for the family and friends that have been left behind. Pray!

    May 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Solex

      Pray. Right. THAT will make a BIG difference in their lives....

      I just wish that people would admit that praying is only there to make people feel better about themselves – NOT any real help to anyone else.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cindy

    After reading the story, it also suggest, there may have been red flags. I can't believe the kids allowed mom to kill them. What a sad story. RIP

    May 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Solex

    Guns don't kill people – they ENABLE people to kill people.

    This gun was NOT used for self defense or "Stand your ground". It was used for what it was designed for: to kill without making any real effort.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. abbydelabbey

    guns in Florida – tragedy after tragedy after tragedy

    May 22, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
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