- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 15, 2012

PORT ST. JOHN, Fla. (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.

Thirty-three-year-old Tonya Thomas 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, Lt. Goodyear said.

“It appeared they had been shot,” Lt. Goodyear said. “The mother of the children came out of the residence next door, called for the children to return home, at which time they left and went back to the house.”

The neighbor then heard gunshots and called 911.

Another neighbor told deputies that Ms. Thomas sent a text message in the middle of the night saying she wanted to be cremated with her children, Lt. Goodyear said.

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.

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