Florida Family Massacre: Tonya Thomas shot her kids 18 times before killing herself, reports say
(CBS/AP) PORT ST. JOHN, Fla. - New reports reveal that Tonya Thomas, a Florida mother, shot her four children 18 times before killing herself. She was also a victim of domestic abuse.
The shootings happened Tuesday, May 15, 2012 in Port St. John, near Cape Canaveral. The children fled to a neighbor's house, but returned when Thomas came outside and called for them to return. Authorities said she then fired the fatal rounds, smoked a cigarette and later killed herself.
According to USA Today, Brevard County's medical examiner wrote in a report that 33-year-old Tonya Thomas used a Taurus .38-caliber revolver to shoot and kill her children Joel Johnson, 12, Jazzlyn Johnson, 13, Jaxs Johnson, 15, and Pebbles Johnson, 17.
There were 19 gunshot wounds found on the victims, including the self-inflicted wound found on Thomas' body, according to the report. One child was shot seven times while the youngest child was shot five times from more than two feet away. The revolver was fired against the chest of at least two children.
Meanwhile, an investigator of the Department of Children and Families spoke to Thomas and the children weeks before the family massacre and said there were no signs that the children were in distress, according to The Associated Press. Each child said they felt safe in their central Florida home.
But hundreds of documents released by state officials Friday detailed the family's history and revealed that Thomas was a woman trapped in a cycle of domestic violence and was also abused or neglected as a child.
In 2000, children watched as their father Joe Johnson yelled at Thomas for not making dinner, then punched and kicked her, knocking her into a wall. The children were removed from their parent's home for a month but were returned despite DCF's objections.
The documents also said Thomas was not verbally or mentally abusive to the children. Investigators spoke with neighbors and school officials and watched the children at home and said they "appear bonded to their parents." A supervisor signed off on the case on May 13.
It's unclear how much contact the family had with Joe Johnson in the weeks before the shooting. He was not living at the home and an investigator wrote Thomas "does not have a relationship with a partner that is supportive of her ability to protect and nurture her children," according to documents written last month.
Multiple listings for Joe Johnson dialed by an AP reporter on Friday were disconnected or incorrect numbers.
"This is a horrendous tragedy, While these files offer a glimpse inside the families' home, they do not appear to contain the answer as to `why' this happened that we all seek at this time," DCF spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner said.
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