No motive determined in Florida killings of 4 children by mother

  • FILE: Deputies say Tonya Thomas fatally shot her four children (left to right) Joel Johnson, Jaxs Johnson, Jazzlyn Johnson and Pebbles Johnson, at their Port St. John home.

    FILE: Deputies say Tonya Thomas fatally shot her four children (left to right) Joel Johnson, Jaxs Johnson, Jazzlyn Johnson and Pebbles Johnson, at their Port St. John home.  (MyFoxOrlando)

  • FILE: This photo shows Tonya Thomas.

    FILE: This photo shows Tonya Thomas.  (MyFoxOrlando)

No motive has been determined for the shooting deaths of four children by their mother, who later killed herself, authorities said Tuesday.

Police found Tonya Thomas, of Brevard County County, Fla., dead Tuesday of an apparent self-inflicted wound and the bodies of her children.

Police say the 33-year-old mother sent a text in the middle of the night that she wanted to be cremated with her children, who ranged in ages 12-17, and then shot them.

Three of the children reportedly tried to escape to a neighbors home, a police spokesman told Fox affiliate WOFL, with one boy yelling out "she shot me."

Authorities say Thomas then lured the children back to the home, and murdered them one by one.

"She essentially called them back in to be slaughtered more or less," Lt. Tod Goodyear, a spokesman for the Brevard County Sheriff's Office told the station. 

When deputies arrived at the home they found 17-year-old Pebbles Johnson dead in the front yard. The bodies of the other children, identified as 15-year-old Jaxs Johnson, 13-year-old Jazzlyn Johnson and 12-year-old Joel Johnson, were found in the front entrance of the home.

"I'm a father and I've got kids," Godyear told MyFoxOrlando. "I cannot comprehend someone doing this to their children."

Thomas' body was found in the garage. Dispatch records show authorities had been called to the home on three successive days in April because of concerns over fights and possible inadequate supervision. 

In the first visit, on Easter Sunday, Thomas reported that her son had thrown a bicycle through a window at the house. The next day, Thomas called to report that her son had kicked and punched her when she tried to wake him up for school. The following day, child welfare investigators visited the house to look into allegations of inadequate supervision of the children.

Records also showed that Thomas was arrested in 2002 on a misdemeanor battery charge for striking the father of her children. The charge was later dropped. Two years earlier, she filed a domestic violence complaint against Joe Johnson, but that was dismissed after a hearing.

Jamie Hudson, whose mother lives two doors down from the family, said the boys in the family were known to shoot BB guns at a home across the street and had threatened to set it on fire.

"It has been an ongoing problem on our street with them," Hudson said.

Goodyear said Jaxs Johnson had recently been arrested on a domestic violence charge. He said he didn't know if the boy had been accused of hitting his mother or causing damage at the house.

Austin Lewis, a 16-year-old classmate of Pebbles Johnson, said the family "had problems like everybody else but nothing that drastic."

He described Pebbles Johnson as "very loving and caring."

"Always with a smile," Lewis said. "Didn't let anything affect her. She was always in a good mood."

A pastor at the church the family attended described it as "normal stuff."

"I think he was punching some walls or something," said Jarvis Wash, pastor of the Real Church in Rockledge, Fla.

Wash said the family attended services last Sunday but had been absent for a few weeks before that.

"I don't know what could have happened in the past couple of days," Wash said. "It's a tragedy to the church and the community."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.