Baby girl fights to survive after Kanawha double murder-suicide

MINK SHOALS, W.Va. — A 17 month old girl continues to fight for her life after a double murder-suicide in Kanawha County.

“The child has a pretty decent chance of surviving,” Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford

The sheriff’s department said Donald “DJ” Thomas, Jr., 29, shot and killed his wife Alicia Thomas, 24, and daughter Myra Thomas, 5, and then turned the gun on himself. The bodies were found at a home in the Mink Shoals area Monday afternoon.

The baby girl, Lona Thomas, was located under her mother’s dead body, according to Rutherford.

“It appears that the mother was trying to go toward the back door and the baby was in her arms and was partially under her body,” he said.

It was determined that each person died from gunshot wounds. The 17-month-old was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where she was listed in stable, but critical condition Tuesday morning.

“We understand they have removed a bullet from the child’s head,” Rutherford said.

Concerned relatives arrived at the home Monday to find the dead bodies and the surviving baby. The time of when the shooting occurred is still unknown.

“It looks like it could be anywhere from 24-48 hours prior to their bodies being found,” Rutherford said.

Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford speaks with @HoppyKercheval about the double-murder suicide in Kanawha county. WATCH:

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Deputies said multiple shots were fired. A magazine was located next to DJ Thomas’ body.

Thomas was an evening custodian at Capital High School, according to a Kanawha County Schools spokesperson.

Authorities were familiar with Thomas. Rutherford said they received seven 911 calls from his home this year, including one that involved domestic violance.

Rutherford said Thomas was arrested on a domestic battery charge in 2018. According to court records obtained by WCHS-TV, the alleged victims in that case were Thomas’ wife Alicia Thomas and mother Nancy Thomas.

The Charleston TV station also reported Thomas was mostly recently arrested on a domestic battery charge in February involving his wife, but the charge was dropped after she failed to appear in court.

Julie Britton Haden, director of the YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program in Charleston, told MetroNews situations like this happen too often and that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t helping.

Julie Britton Haden

“As we look at more and more people who have lost their job and are staying at home, home isn’t always a safe place for somebody,” she said.

Part of their work includes taking calls from women and men in danger or fearful of their partner’s actions.

“Sometimes it’s about information and sometimes it’s about ‘I need a safe place to be right now. How can you help?'” she said.

Britton Haden said nationwide, 57 women a month are shot and killed by their partner. Much of the violence escalates over time especially if a gun is involved.

Children are at risk of future trauma, too, which is why she said the YWCA talks to them in school about how to identify domestic violence among family members and friends.

“We talk to kids about healthy relationships and healthy boundaries,” Britton Haden said. “We absolutely see kids as secondary victims of domestic violence. If you’re in a home with violence, everyone is a victim.”