The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Nation, World

May 15, 2012

Deputies: Fla. mom killed 4 kids, then herself

PORT ST. JOHN, Fla. — A Florida mother who fatally shot her four children before killing herself Tuesday called three of the kids who had sought help from a neighbor back to the house before firing the fatal shots, authorities said.

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

Three of the children had gone to a neighbor's front door before dawn to say their mother had shot them. The mother then called the children back to the house and killed them, Goodyear said.

"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.

The neighbor then heard gunshots and called 911.

Another neighbor told deputies that Thomas sent a text 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," Goodyear said.

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

The shooting happened 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.

A spokesman for the Department of Children and Families wouldn't immediately comment on whether the family had a history with the agency.

Dispatch records released 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.

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