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Florida mother kills 4 children, then herself, deputies say

Tonya Thomas shot and killed her four children, ages 12-17, before turning the gun on herself. Authorities said three of the kids had sought help from a neighbor when Thomas called them back home and fired the fatal shots. NBC's Gabe Gutierrez reports.

Updated at 6:20 p.m. ET: A Florida mother killed her four children and then shot herself Tuesday morning as Brevard County, Fla., deputies closed in on her Port St. John home, authorities said.

Deputies said the mother, identified as Tonya Thomas, 33, sent a warning text message to a friend before the shootings, but the friend didn’t see the text until later.


Three of the children, at least one already wounded, fled to the home of a neighbor who had been awakened by gunfire, but Thomas immediately called the children back and killed them, sheriff’s spokesman Tom Goodyear said.

The neighbor called 911 as they left his home, Goodyear said.

See the story at NBC station WESH of Orlando

Tim Shortt / FLORIDA TODAY

Brevard County sheriff's investigators say a mother took the lives of her four children during an early morning confrontation, calling three of them back into her home to fatally shoot them before turning a gun on herself, law enforcement sources report.

“She was very calm,” Goodyear said of the neighbor’s report. “She called them back and they walked back to the house.”

Arriving deputies found one of the children, Pebbles Johnson, 17, lying in the front yard of the Bright Avenue home and spotted a person at the front door, Goodyear said. The person ducked back inside after seeing deputies, he said. The teen was declared dead when she was transferred to an ambulance.

As a SWAT team arrived, officers heard gunshots inside. SWAT officers entered through a back sliding door just before 7 a.m., and found Thomas and three other children dead. They were identified as Joel Johnson, 12, Jazlin Johnson, 13, and Jaxs Johnson, 15.

Goodyear said the children’s father, who was separated from the family, had been notified of the deaths.

Also, a friend of Thomas told police she texted him during the night that she wanted to be cremated with her four children, Goodyear said. However, the friend did not see the text until after he woke up Tuesday morning and the incident was over. The friend, who was not identified, called police after seeing news of the deaths, he said.

Goodyear said police previously responded to the Florida “Space Coast” home, about 15 miles south of Cape Canaveral, for domestic disturbance calls involving Jaxs Johnson. He said the most recent call was about a month before Tuesday’s shootings.

"The cops have been called to that house many times because the kids were terrorizing the neighbors," neighbor Travis St. Peter told NBC station WESH.

Goodyear said that of Tuesday afternoon, authorities had no motive for the killings.

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