New details are emerging in the case of Tonya Thomas, the Florida mother who inexplicably killed her four teenage children last week. The kids, ranging in age from 12 to 17, were shot at point blank range with most of their wounds on the fronts of their bodies, meaning they were facing their mama, maybe even looking at her, when she opened fire on them two, three, four, up to seven times each.
Experts say the gun Thomas used, a Taurus .38 caliber, can only hold a round of six shots, which means she would’ve had to stop and reload three times during the assault on her children. I can’t even begin to imagine the agony of watching your mother not only kill your siblings one by one, but the terror of waiting as she reloaded, knowing your turn to die was inevitably coming up. My heart actually aches thinking about it.
The Brevard County district medical examiner released findings yesterday that conclude Thomas was no more than two feet away when she unloaded some 18 hollow point bullets into Pebbles Johnson, 17; Jaxs Johnson, 15; Jazzlyn Johnson, 13; and Joel Johnson, 12.
Jazzlyn was hit the most, with seven shots throughout the midsection of her body. Joel was shot five times. Jaxs took three bullets in his chest. Pebbles was also riddled with three shots. Adding to the obvious heart wrenching question of why Thomas did it is the curious fact that neither she nor any of the children had any defensive wounds and the home showed no sign of a struggle, even though many of the shots were taken at contact range, meaning she put the muzzle of the gun right up against their bodies and pulled the trigger. They didn’t push her. They didn’t fight her. It just happened, almost like they were expecting it.
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Toxicology reports are being conducted and autopsies are being performed, which can take time. In the meanwhile, I’m praying for the neighbor three of the children ran to for help before their mother called them back home, who refused to let the Johnsons in their house during the confusion. I’m praying for the kids and the lives that were cut short by the hands of their own mama and I’m praying for Thomas herself, who for reasons known only to her—maybe not even to her children—murdered the babies she birthed and then took her own life.
Maybe, in her unstable mind, it was the only way to protect them from the struggles, disappointments, and anguishes of life. Maybe she was temporarily out of her mind or maybe she had exercised a lifetime of manipulative control over her children. Maybe she was frustrated, crazed, hopeless. Maybe she loved them so much that she didn’t want them to suffer the same pitfalls she had experienced.
That’s all we have for now. The maybes. Nothing is certain, nothing is for sure except that an entire family is gone just like that and four promising, beautiful children—because every child, no matter how much trouble they’ve caused in their rebellious teenage years, is still promising and beautiful—won’t go to the prom or graduate high school or wait in anticipation for a college acceptance letter or eat junk food on the sofa or giggle with their friends about their favorite reality show or send a text message or roll their eyes at their mother or learn the newest dance. That’s a lot of life lost, a lot of mourning to work through.
Do you know your neighbors?
Image via mrphishphotography