Deputies: Mother shot four children, self in Brevard County home



BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Police have identified a mother they believe shot and killed her four children before shooting herself in their Port St. John home early Tuesday morning.

The victims were identified as Joel Johnson, 12; Jazzlyn Johnson, 13, Jaxs Johnson, 15, Pebbles Johnson, 17, and the mother, who was believed to be the shooter, Tonya Thomas, 33.

Just before 5 a.m., dispatchers received a 911 call from a resident who said they heard gunshots coming from their neighbor's home, said Tod Goodyear of the Brevard County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators believe Thomas killed her oldest son, Jaxs, first, in his bed while he slept.

When deputies arrived at the scene, Goodyear said, they found Pebbles dead in the front yard of the home on the 7000 block of Bright Avenue.

The other two children went back inside the house just before deputies arrived. Neighbors said they then heard more gunshots.

"It sounded like a transformer was going off. That was pretty much it," neighbors said.

Deputies said as they were setting up a perimeter, they saw someone at the front door of the home. The person at the door then went inside, and deputies heard one final gunshot, they said.

"They briefly saw someone at the door that went back inside. They heard shots as the SWAT team arrived," said Goodyear.

A SWAT team was called to the scene and upon arrival, entered the home through a back door and found three children and Thomas.

Investigators said there was no note or explanation as to why the killings happened.

A witness told deputies he received a text message at about 3 a.m. from Thomas, saying she wanted to be cremated with her children. However, the neighbor said, he did not see the text until after the incident.

Investigators said that at about 4:50 a.m., a neighbor was awakened by a knock at the door. The neighbor told deputies that three of the children, Joel, Jazline and Pebbles, were there and appeared to have been shot.

"One of them had a gunshot wound or appeared to have a gunshot wound," said the neighbor.

Deputies said the neighbor got one of the kids a towel because they were bleeding. While the children were at the neighbor's house, police said, Thomas came outside and beckoned the kids back, and they listened. The neighbor called 911 after the kids left, deputies said.

Deputies said Pebbles never made it into the home and collapsed in the front yard.

Goodyear said a gun and other evidence were recovered from the scene.

The school district was notified so grief counselors could be sent to the schools where the children attended.

Goodyear said deputies have responded to calls to the home in the past.

Read: Documents related to previous law enforcement calls to the home

Deputies said the father, Joe Johnson, who does not live with the family, was notified, and he had a difficult time composing himself as investigators tried to talk to him.

In October 2002, Thomas was arrested, accused of attacking Joe Johnson.

In April, deputies said, Jaxs threw a bicycle through a window, and Thomas called police. She told cops she didn't want Jaxs to come home until he had calmed down and that she'd been working to get him into some behavioral programs.

Jaxs was supposed to appear in court Tuesday to be arraigned for the misdemeanor domestic violence charge, investigators said.
In a past incident, deputies said a neighbor called 911 due to a domestic-type incident.

Neighbors along Bright Avenue told WFTV they knew the incident involved Thomson and her kids, who they called the neighborhood troublemakers.

Travis St. Peter and his neighbors said the boys lived in the house with their mom, and they were usually wreaking havoc by lighting fireworks or shooting BBs at nearby houses.

"The guy had to board up his windows because they always basically destroyed his house," said St. Peter. "The kids are always trying to get in fights. You always hear the mom's yelling at midnight and stuff."

WFTV was there when a woman who may have been their grandmother rushed down the street to find out what happened, and she seemed devastated.

"It's always a sad thing when kids are involved," said St. Peter.