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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Domestic abuse
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: May 15, 2012
Date of birth: 1978
Victims profile: Joel Johnson, 12, Jazzlyn Johnson, 13, Jaxs Johnson, 15, and Pebbles Johnson, 17 (her children)
Method of murder: Shooting (Taurus .38-caliber revolver)
Location: Port St. John, Brevard County, Florida, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting herself the same day

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Florida Family Massacre: Tonya Thomas shot her kids 18 times before killing herself, reports say

May 21, 2012

(CBS/AP) PORT ST. JOHN, Fla. - New reports reveal that Tonya Thomas, a Florida mother, shot her four children 18 times before killing herself. She was also a victim of domestic abuse.

The shootings happened Tuesday, May 15, 2012 in Port St. John, near Cape Canaveral. The children fled to a neighbor's house, but returned when Thomas came outside and called for them to return. Authorities said she then fired the fatal rounds, smoked a cigarette and later killed herself.

According to USA Today, Brevard County's medical examiner wrote in a report that 33-year-old Tonya Thomas used a Taurus .38-caliber revolver to shoot and kill her children Joel Johnson, 12, Jazzlyn Johnson, 13, Jaxs Johnson, 15, and Pebbles Johnson, 17.

There were 19 gunshot wounds found on the victims, including the self-inflicted wound found on Thomas' body, according to the report. One child was shot seven times while the youngest child was shot five times from more than two feet away. The revolver was fired against the chest of at least two children.

Meanwhile, an investigator of the Department of Children and Families spoke to Thomas and the children weeks before the family massacre and said there were no signs that the children were in distress, according to The Associated Press. Each child said they felt safe in their central Florida home.

But hundreds of documents released by state officials Friday detailed the family's history and revealed that Thomas was a woman trapped in a cycle of domestic violence and was also abused or neglected as a child.

In 2000, children watched as their father Joe Johnson yelled at Thomas for not making dinner, then punched and kicked her, knocking her into a wall. The children were removed from their parent's home for a month but were returned despite DCF's objections.

The documents also said Thomas was not verbally or mentally abusive to the children. Investigators spoke with neighbors and school officials and watched the children at home and said they "appear bonded to their parents." A supervisor signed off on the case on May 13.

It's unclear how much contact the family had with Joe Johnson in the weeks before the shooting. He was not living at the home and an investigator wrote Thomas "does not have a relationship with a partner that is supportive of her ability to protect and nurture her children," according to documents written last month.

Multiple listings for Joe Johnson dialed by an AP reporter on Friday were disconnected or incorrect numbers.

"This is a horrendous tragedy, While these files offer a glimpse inside the families' home, they do not appear to contain the answer as to `why' this happened that we all seek at this time," DCF spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner said.


Florida Family Massacre: 911 call shows neighbors wouldn't help kids before Tonya Thomas killed them

May 17, 2012

(CBS/AP) ORLANDO, Fla. - A 911 call released on Wednesday reveals that neighbors of a Florida mother refused to let her children in their house before the mother called for them to come home, where she fatally shot all four before killing herself.

The caller said she was confused about who was doing the shooting when on Tuesday, Tonya Thomas, 33, shot 17-year-old Pebbles Johnson, 13-year-old Jazlin Johnson, 15-year-old Jaxs Johnson and 12-year-old Joel Johnson, before taking her own life in their home in Port St. John, Florida.

A Brevard County Sheriff's spokesman told The Associated Press that three of the children went to a neighbor's house early Tuesday morning to say their mother had shot them.

But according to the 911 call, the female neighbor said she heard one child say the youngest child shot their mother. Later, she said the children told her husband that their mother was shooting at them.

Amid the confusion, the caller warned the children not to enter her home.

"Get back, you're not coming in our house," she can be heard saying in the recording.

The caller's husband told the dispatcher that the children were frantically trying to enter their house.

"I don't know who has the gun, so I'm not walking out there," the 911 caller's husband said to the dispatcher. "I'm armed but not going out there and putting myself in danger."

When the caller's husband grabbed his gun and ran outside, he said he saw one child bleeding at the front door.

The child went back when Thomas called for her children to come home. When deputies went to Thomas' house, they found her dead of a self-inflicted wound. Three of her children were found shot dead inside the house and the fourth was found fatally shot in the front yard of a neighbor's house.

Authorities told the AP they have no motive for the killings and are not sure why the children followed the mother's orders to return to their house.


Florida Mom Murders Four Children, Kills Herself

By Ashley and Candace Smith -

May 15, 2012

A Florida mom went on a murderous rampage, killing her four children early today before turning the gun on herself.

The murders happened around 4:30 a.m. in Port St. John, Fla. According to Lt. Tod Goodyear of the Brevard County Sheriff's Office identified the mother as Tonya Thomas, 33.

The children were identified as Joel Johnson, 12, Jazzlyn Johnson, 13, Jaxs Johnson, 15, and Pebbles Johnson, 17.

"This is a little bit different because they were older kids," Goodyear said. "To kill all four, I can't remember the last time a mom killed this many of her children."

The shootings are the worst homicides to take place in Brevard County since 1987.

Goodyear says Thomas sent a text message around 3 a.m. to a male coworker that Goodyear said, "Tell my mom what happened, I want to be cremated with my children."

The text is an indication that it was premeditated, Goodyear said. "A bad part of the investigation is that we may not get the why. Unless she left a note somewhere or told somebody, she may have taken it to the grave."

According to Goodyear, a neighbor heard gun shots. Minutes later two of the children arrived on his doorstep. One of the boys, police believe it was Joel, was covered in blood and told the neighbor his mom had shot them. The oldest child, Pebbles, could be seen walking back towards the family home, Goodyear said.

The children's mother came outside and lured the kids back into the house.

"She was very calm, called them in," Goodyear said. "She didn't seem to be stressed or mad, just stepped out. She walked out and said 'come home.'"

The neighbors say that they called out to the children, begging them not to go back to the house. That was the last time they saw the children.

The neighbors called police immediately who heard gunshots upon arrival.

"We set up a perimeter, found the oldest girl lying in the yard and took her out to ambulance," Goodyear said.

EMTs pronounced Pebbles dead in the ambulance and a SWAT team was called for further investigation. Police say they heard another gun shot. Officers found the other three kids and Thomas all dead in the back of the house.

Goodyear says the father of the family lives in Titusville, Fla., and hadn't been home in a few months.

The family has a history of domestic violence.

In April, Jaxs threw a bicycle through a window in the house and threatened Thomas, according to a police report.

That next day, when she woke him up for school, he kicked and punched her repeatedly, the report said. She pushed back and they began to scuffle.

Police were called later that day and police say neighbors often complained of hearing shouts and yells emanating from the house.

"It's sad, even if they were troublemakers. It's very distressing," Goodyear said. "As a parent, I could never fathom doing this to my kids."


'Cremate me with my kids': Chilling last text of crazed mother who 'shot dead her FOUR children before turning the gun on herself'

  • Tanya Thomas, 33, called her children into the house and then shot them dead

  • Texted a friend during the night to say she wanted to be cremated with her kids

  • Family members were known for being 'hoodlums' in the neighbourhood

  • Former police officer says domestic violence was likely involved

  • She called cops in April to say that her son had kicked and punched her when she woke him up for school

By Laura Cox -

May 15, 2012

A mother-of-four who killed her children and then herself early on Tuesday morning said she wanted to be cremated with them, in a harrowing text message sent to a friend hours earlier.

Sheriff's deputies in Brevard County, Florida said 33-year-old Tanya Thomas shot her four children, who ranged in age from 12 to 17.

They were Joel, 12, Jazlin, 13, Jaxs, 15, and Pebbles Johnson, 17, deputies said, all of whom lived at the Port St John property with their mother.

Their father, who has been told of their deaths, lives separately, but also in Brevard County, according to the New York Post.

A neighbour told deputies they were woken up by the gunshots and heard a knock at the door. Three of the victims, who appeared to have been shot, were standing there asking for help.

They said Thomas came out of her house and calmly called over to the kids to return home.

'She was very calm,' sheriff’s spokesman Tom Goodyear said of the neighbor’s report. 'She called them back and they walked back to the house.'

On arrival deputies found a Pebbles', critically injured, lying in the front yard of 7245 Bright Avenue. She was taken by police car to an ambulance as a SWAT team surrounded the home.

Thomas was seen at the front door holding a gun but went back inside when she saw the officers in her front yard.

A short time later more gunfire was heard, prompting the SWAT team to go in through a back entrance.

Once inside they found the four other bodies.

Deputies had been at the home a few weeks earlier on a domestic call after a neighbour called 911. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Jaxs was arrested on a domestic violence charge which also involved his mother.

Dispatch records released on Tuesday show that authorities responded to Thomas' house on three successive days in April.

In the first visit, on Easter Sunday, Thomas reported that her son had thrown a bicycle through a window at the house. The next day, Thomas called to report that her son had kicked and punched her when she tried to wake him up for school.

The following day, child welfare investigators visited the house to look into allegations of inadequate supervision of the children.

Records also showed that Thomas was arrested in 2002 on a misdemeanor battery charge for striking the father of her children. The charge was later dropped.

Two years earlier, she filed a domestic violence complaint against Joe Johnson, but that was dismissed after a hearing.

Neighbour Travis St. Peter, told Florida Today that the family was known in the area for being disruptive, with police often being called to the house.

'They were just known for being hoodlums,' he said of the children, adding that they were often seen running around late at night, 'terrorizing our dogs and setting off firecrackers'.

Jamie Hudson, whose mother lives two doors down from the family, told the Miami Herald that the boys in the family were known to shoot BB guns at a home across the street and had threatened to set it on fire.

A friend of Thomas told the Sentinel that he had woken to a text message sent by the woman at around 3am to say that she wished to be cremated along with her children. He did not see the message until he woke up this morning, hours after the killings.

Former Orange County Sheriff's Department officer James Copenhaver told that deputies would be analysing Thomas’ phone activity in the days leading up to the shooting. ‘This may also give some insight as to why she did this,’ he said.

More would be known, he said, after the 911 tapes were released, including how many emergency calls were made and potentially how many shots were fired.

He said that toxicology tests would be run on her to determine whether or not she was taking drugs and added that domestic violence would likely have been involved, based on past experience of similar cases.

On a live chat with the former officer someone who identified themselves only as 'G' wrote that Thomas was a 'private, independent character', adding that there were 'so many components in her life'.

At least three of the children killed went to Space Coast Junior-Senior High School, according Brevard Public Schools said grief counselors have been sent to the victims' schools.

A friend of the children, named Heather, said there was a lot of crying when the news was announced on the school speakers.

'I have never seen Space Coast so quiet before,' she wrote on the forum, expressing shock when the kids' yearbook photos began to be posted online.

Another wrote: 'Joel was a good kid he loved playing football and he was really funny and a lot of people from Port St John will miss him dearly.'

Police would not speculate on a motive, or whether Thomas had planned the mass murder.

Goodyear told KMBC that he was having a hard time trying to understand how a mother could commit such a grisly act.

'I cannot comprehend as a parent doing this to their children ... calling them back in and shooting them,' he said.

He said authorities have not yet determined the owner of the gun but they have no doubt that Thomas was the killer.

The First Baptist Church of Port St. John said it will host a community prayer vigil Wednesday at 7pm.

Port St. John is about 15 miles west of Cape Canaveral. The area is known as the 'Space Coast' because it is the home of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, home of numerous famed shuttle launches.

The shooting happened just a few blocks away from Atlantis Elementary School. Bright Avenue has been closed to traffic near Curtis Boulevard as deputies continue to investigate the scene.



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