Florida Mother Shoots Four Children, then Kills Self

A standoff between a mother of four and a Florida SWAT team ended with the woman killing her children before turning the gun on herself, police reports.

The tragedy occured in Port St. John, about 15 miles west of Cape Canaveral in an area known as the "Space Coast" because it is the home of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, the location of numerous famed shuttle launches. Photo: Jay Riddle/Flickr

Thirty-three-year-old Tonya Thomas shot her four children, ranged in age from 12 to 17, said Lt. Tod Goodyear, a spokesman for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.

Goodyear added that three of the children went to a neighbor’s front door before dawn to ask for help, but the mother then called the children back to the house and killed them.

“From what the neighbors said, she was very calm. She walked out and called them back. They turned around and walked back to the house,” Goodyear said. After the neighbor heard gunshots, he called emergency service.

One more witness told police that the woman texted a message in the middle of the night saying she wanted to be cremated with her children. “He didn’t see the text until he woke up this morning,” the policeman said.

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

Deputies and the SWAT team arrived at the home just after a 5 a.m. call of shots fired. The deaths are worst instance of multiple homicides in Brevard County since the April 1987, writes USA Today. In that instance, William Cruse killed six people, including two Palm Bay, Fla., police officers during a shooting spree.

Goodyear revealed that police saw someone in the house and decided to enter shortly after 7 a.m. that time the four additional bodies were found.

Three of the kids, along with Thomas, were found dead inside the house, investigators said. The oldest, Pebbles, was discovered dead in the yard. The officer added police had been to the house previously but would not elaborate.

Travis St. Peter, 27, who lived about three houses nearby until two days ago, said the family was known in the neighborhood for being disruptive and said police were often at the house.

“They were just known for being hoodlums,” St. Peter said of the children. The mother was regularly yelling at the children, who were often running around the neighborhood late at night, “terrorizing our dogs and setting off firecrackers,” St. Peter said.

One more Thomas’s neighbor, Jamie Hudson, whose mother lives two doors down from the family, said the boys in the family were known to shoot BBs at a home across the street and had threatened to set it on fire. “It has been an ongoing problem on our street with them,” Hudson said.

According to police’s data, Jaxs Johnson had recently been arrested on a domestic violence charge. He said he didn’t know whether the boy had been accused of hitting his mother or causing damage at the house, writes Wdam.

Nonsense, but a pastor at the church the family attended described it as “normal stuff.” “I think he was punching some walls or something,” said Jarvis Wash, pastor of the Real Church in Rockledge.

Wash said the family attended services last Sunday but had been absent for a few weeks before that. “I don’t know what could have happened in the past couple of days,” Wash said. “It’s a tragedy to the church and the community.”

Share this article

We welcome comments that advance the story directly or with relevant tangential information. We try to block comments that use offensive language, all capital letters or appear to be spam, and we review comments frequently to ensure they meet our standards. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Coinspeaker Ltd.