PORT ST. JOHN, Fla. May 16 2012 (AP) — A Florida mother who fatally shot her four children before killing herself Tuesday called three of the kids who had sought help from a neighbor back to the house before firing the fatal shots, authorities said.
Tonya Thomas, 33, fatally shot her four children, who ranged in age from 12 to 17, said Lt. Tod Goodyear, a spokesman for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.
Three of the children had gone to a neighbor’s front door before dawn to say their mother had shot them. The mother then called the children back to the house and killed them, Goodyear said.
“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,” Goodyear said.
The neighbor then heard gunshots and called 911.
Another neighbor told deputies that Thomas sent a text message in the middle of the night saying she wanted to be cremated with her children.
“He didn’t see the text until he woke up this morning,” Goodyear said.
Deputies identified the children as Pebbles Johnson, 17; Jaxs Johnson, 15; Jazzlyn Johnson, 13; and Joel Johnson, 12.
The shooting happened in Port St. John, about 15 miles west of Cape Canaveral in an area known as the “Space Coast” because it is the home of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the location of numerous famed shuttle launches.
A spokesman for the Department of Children and Families wouldn’t immediately comment on whether the family had a history with the agency.
Dispatch records released Tuesday show that authorities responded to Thomas’ house on three successive days in April.
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 BBs 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.”
ONSLOW COUNTY, NC Feb 24 2012 – Three children were killed Thursday morning in a house fire in Onslow County.
According to Sheriff Ed Brown, Tabitha Pittman, 12, Elijah Pittman, 8, and Gabriel Pittman, 6, were on the first floor of the home. It is possible the oldest child was trying to help the other two get out.
According to authorities with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were dispatched to a fire in the 2100 block of Wilmington Highway Thursday morning around 5 a.m.
When deputies and fire crews arrived, the house was completely engulfed in flames, and they were met by the home’s injured residents who had escaped.
Deputies and firemen attempted to enter the home to rescue the remaining family members, but were unable to due to extreme smoke and flames.
As soon as possible, firemen went inside the home and discovered the victims who were killed in the fire in the house’s living room.
Authorites say the home belonged to Samuel and Johnetta Pittman.
According to WITN, Johnetta and her five other children were injured in the fire. She and her daughter Hannah, 10, were taken to the Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill. The other children injured are Samantha, 16, 15-year-old twins Adrianne and Gabrielle, and Johnathan, 4.
According to officials at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Samantha, Adrianne and Gabrielle were all in good condition Thursday evening. Johnetta, Hannah, and Johnathan’s conditions are unknown at this time.
Authorities told WITN the twins suffered impact injuries after they jumped from a second floor window.
WITN is reporting that Samuel Pittman was working overnight and not at home when the fire started.
When fire crews arrived to the scene, flames and smoke were shooting from the home. It took officials about 45 minutes to contain the fire.
It is unclear what caused the fire at this time. Officials told WITN they are still trying to make sure the house is safe enough for investigators to begin their probe.
According to the media outlet, this is not the first time Pittman lost their home in a fire. A friend of the family said their house in Richlands caught fire eight years ago.
I wanted to give you a quick update on how the Red Cross is assisting the Pittman family from the Onslow County fire this morning. Because of the magnitude of this event, we have several chapters and regions involved in the response.
According to officials, the American Red Cross has stepped in and is providing temporary housing, food and clothing to the family.
“Although we are unable to release specifics due to confidentially laws, Red Cross volunteers and mental health professionals will continue to assist the families through the coming days as requested,” said officials in a statement.
Anyone who wishes to help the Pittman family during this time can contact Walter Scott with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office at 910-989-4008 or 910-389-4685.
Gloria Joles, the Sheriff’s Administrative Secretary, is also helping and can be reached at the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office at 910-989-4001.
Receipts for all donations will be given at the time a donation is received.
For those who wish to donate clothing to the Pittman family, the following is a list of clothing sizes:
• Size 31 x 32 pants
• Size medium shirts
• Size 12, 14 pants – teenagers
• Size 3,5,7 pants – teenagers
• Size 16 pants – mother
• Size XL tops – mother/teenagers
• Size small tops – teenager
• Size 10/12 pants
• Size 10/12 tops
• Size 4/5 pants
• Size 4/5 shirts