Tonya Thomas’ neighbors were awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of gunshots and a knock on their door. When they opened the door they saw three of Thomas’ four children, one of whom seemed to be shot. Thomas exited her home and told her children to go back inside. They listened to their mother and then more gunshots were heard as neighbors called 911. Thomas, 33, was found dead of a self-inflicted wound by Brevard County Sheriff’s deputies. Three of her children were also found dead inside the home. The three victims are Jaxs Johnson, 15; Jazzlyn Johnson, 13; and Joel Johnson, 12. The fourth child, 17-year-old Pebbles Johnson, was found dead in the front yard of a neighbor’s home.
“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,” said sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Tod Goodyear.
According to deputies, a neighbor said that Thomas sent out a text message that said she would like to be cremated with her children.
“He didn’t see the text until he woke up this morning,” Goodyear said.
The multiple shooting occurred in Port St. John, just 15 miles west of Cape Canaveral. According to records released this week by local dispatch, authorities had been sent to Thomas’ home three consecutive days in April. The first call came on Easter Sunday, when it was reported by Thomas that her son threw a bicycle through a window at the family’s home. The day after Easter, Thomas called again claiming that her son kicked her and punched her when she attempted to wake him for school. Just the next day, welfare investigators went to the home to investigate allegations of inadequate supervision of Thomas’ children.
The reason for the visit by the Department of Children and Families was that one of the Thomas children was released from a detention facility but no caretaker arrived to pick up the child. Thomas was arrested back in 2002 for hitting Joe Johnson, the father of the children. She was charged with a misdemeanor battery offense. In 2000, Thomas filed a domestic violence complaint against Joe Johnson, which was dismissed.
According to Goodyear, Jaxs Johnson was arrested recently for domestic violence but did not know if it stemmed from damaging the home or hitting the mother. A classmate of Pebbles Johnson, Austin Lewis, said the following about the family and Pebbles:
“They had problems like everybody else but nothing that drastic. She was very loving and caring. Always with a smile,” Lewis said. “Didn’t let anything affect her. She was always in a good mood.”