Killer Florida Mom Shot Her 4 Kids 18 Times
Tonya Thomas, children had troubled past
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 21, 2012 11:40 AM CDT
Tonya Thomas is seen in a 2002 booking mug provided by the Brevard County, Fla.,   (AP Photo/Brevard County Sheriff's Office)
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(Newser) – Tonya Thomas shot her four children 18 times in Tuesday's massacre, and two of them were shot as the gun pressed against their chests, according to the medical examiner's report. She used jacketed, hollow-point bullets, which cause more damage than full-metal jacket rounds, and used a single Taurus .38-caliber revolver, which she would have had to reload three times. About 36 minutes passed from when the first shots were reported to 911 until the last shot was heard, Florida Today reports. (Thomas reportedly smoked a cigarette after killing her children and before killing herself.) Previous reports from the AP and Fox News paint a tragic picture of the family's history:

  • Joe Johnson, father to the murdered children Joel, Jazlin, Jaxs, and Pebbles, was arrested after allegedly punching and kicking Thomas in 2000. Thomas and the children eventually began living with Johnson again, leading the Department of Children and Families to remove the children from the home but return them a month later.
  • The couple worked with a caseworker and investigators said the children appeared "bonded" to the parents and healthy, but Thomas was arrested in 2002 for allegedly striking Johnson. The charge was later dropped.
  • In the months before the shooting, it was not clear how much contact Johnson had with the family. In April, authorities were called to the home on three successive days: The first day, Thomas said her son threw a bicycle through a window; the next day, she said her son kicked her and punched her as she tried to wake him up for school; the third day, investigators responded to allegations of inadequate supervision.
  • Also in April, son Jaxs was arrested for battery against his mother. After she did not pick him up from juvenile detention, child welfare investigators looked into the home situation and saw no signs that the children were in danger. The investigator last spoke to Thomas on May 10 and the case was closed May 13, just two days before the massacre.
  • The daughter of a neighbor says the boys had been causing problems on the street, shooting BB guns at another house and threatening to set it on fire. A wrenching account of one of the 911 calls reveals that neighbors weren't sure who was doing the shooting—Thomas or one of her kids—and a crying female caller said at one point, "I knew this was gonna happen." She also refused to let the children enter her home, unsure who had the gun. "Get back, you're not coming in our house," she can be heard saying.