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 devil is dancing in hell knowing that he could convince a young mother to join him after murdering her darling family. I wont say the traditional things like my heart goes out to her family. I will say that I'm in tears knowing that she was so rude and selfish that she couldn't handle life but wouldnt give her children a shot to make that decision themselves. Now am I correct that its noted that they (the kids) did run away to say they've been shot but returned home? Now I don't know about you all but if mommy just shot me I'm not going back home. Id eat out of dumpsters for weeks until I find my Eutopia. Now one user asks when is this going to stop....It will stop when the demon is defeated and releases his control on the weak minds of people that were created in gods image. Its sad and I'm in jaw dropping awe. They are all in my prayers. If you don't want your kids please give them up for adoption, or give them to families that will love them just as many wealthy adopted atheletes, business pros, etc. have been loved.

    May 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. hap

    i don't get some of u ppl's thought process! why is it assumed they lived n a housing project/on assistance programs/father ran off n whatever racial profiling ur suggesting. because of thier race? how dare u! there r 4 innocent children who r now gone. forever. bottom line is, my opinion, no one will ever know what was n the heart n mind of tonya thomas as she did what she did. we will never know why the children returned. u should be ashamed at not showing common decency.at this tragedy.

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

    as a gun owner,this makes me want to vote for gun control.

    May 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. starr1999

    (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. Tonya Thomas then called them back home before killing them.),doesnt make sence...wth would they go back after being being shot by their mother....why didnt they or the the neighbors call the the police?OR AN an ambubulance?i know if my neighbors kids had come come to my home i woulda never let the kids go back to their crazy mothers after she shot them! i woulda called cops and and ambulance! they might still be alive if they had not gone back when when waco mommy called wanted them back home...(the writer says 3 of the children had said their mother had shot them kinda confusing) know most wouldnt run back to a place where they had just been shot or witnessed their sibbilings being shot..this is one sick woman,she coulda spared her kids and did herself,but nah musta been selfish/mental/drugged/cracked imo,prayers for the family,heaven gained 4 innocent angels,h3ll gained another 1,

    May 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. GaPeach

    This is very Tragic! Four young people lost their lives and to think some of them had to see their mother shoot another and know she would shoot them! Very sad! RIP Children!

    May 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Laur

    This is sad if this woman felt so desperate that she wanted to die and not leave her children behind. It sounds selfish, but at the same time, you can almost understand her thinking. I don't justify it, but I try to imagine how she must felt. Just makes me sad.

    May 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JHD

    ed – Just another fatherless household?? Sounds like you came from one as well because obviously no one taught you empathy and sympathy for innocent victims! Jerk.

    May 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. cleT

    YEAH...imaging if she had a car and drove them in a lake, or killed them in their sleep with a knife, or etc etc etc etc....
    stop blaming a inanimate object.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike

    Once again I'm sure the gun control nuts will use this as another attempt to push the liberal agenda. If those kids were armed and able to protect themselves then this would never have happened.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      and if the mother were not permitted to use a firearm because she was psychologically incapable of the responsibility. But that's right, the NRA wants everyone whether they are 5 years old, blind, psychotic, or mentally retarded, to be able to carry a firearm.

      And damn the consequences.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Wow, what a disgusting individual

      May 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. C.L.

    Can you answer why Andrea Yates killed her kids? The father was white and part of the household.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Haywood Jablome

    1 2 3

    May 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Todd in DC

    ROOT of the problem

    May 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fill

    first kid at 16 and the pics of kids look like multiple fathers. God Bless the kids

    May 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. eD

    Thanks Todd in DC, my spellchecker

    May 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Oldnewbie

    I can't understand why the children returned to the house after gettying away to a neighbors. The mother had, by reports, already shot them once or so, so why obey her command to come back to the house?? Guess we'll never know...

    May 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harkkonen4

      That's the strangest thing about this tragedy...why did the kids go back to their mom after she'd opened fire on them ?
      May those children rest in peace.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry

      My question also.

      May 22, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
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