May 10, 2020 | By Roberto Lopez
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
It wasn’t an uncommon sight to see Jonte Thomas and his mother Anita Gibson grabbing breakfast together. They would ride together and spend the meal catching up on each other’s lives.
The last time they got breakfast together was a bit different.
As Anita describes it, her son had been a “street pharmacist” for the better part of 20 years. She needed to tell Jonte that she had heard talk of jealousy and even intent to kill him being discussed around their Cocoa, Florida, neighborhood.
Jonte responded to the rumors indicating that he didn’t want to live his life in fear. If he was shot and killed, then it would be what God wanted.
As Anita cried, Jonte said, “Mama, you gonna be all right.”
These were the last words he said to her.
Not long after that, on December 9, 2016, he was shot through the windows of his car.
Jonte spent the next two weeks in a coma. After coming out of the coma, he spent the next three months in hospitals and in physical therapy and seemed to be on his way to recovery.
But on April 12, 2017, he found himself in the hospital again because of a seizure, likely related to the gunshot wound. He returned home, but a second seizure on April 30th landed him back in the hospital.
Jonte died the following day on May 1st. His murder remains unsolved.
Jonte was Anita’s first child. Her sisters had several kids each, so to finally be able to have a baby meant a lot to her.
Anita’s pregnancy was admittedly difficult. But December 6, 1980, was a time for celebration.
Anita described her son as “the joy of my life.” She loved to spoil him.
In retrospect, Anita said, discipline was “non-existent.” Whenever Jonte would do something that she disapproved of, she would simply tell him to stop. But she would also continue to spoil him with video games or anything else he asked for.
Jonte was a good student in school, making As throughout his educational career. His teachers even suggested moving him up a grade level, but Anita decided to keep Jonte with kids his age. Jonte would often complain about feeling unchallenged and frustrated waiting for classmates to catch up to topics he already understood.
When Jonte turned 16, Anita says that he began to stop asking for things from his mother. This worried Anita since Jonte was still in school and had no job. But working two jobs of her own, Anita didn’t have much time to investigate herself.
She later discovered that Jonte had started selling drugs.
At 17, Jonte was caught spending the day at a friend’s house rather than being in school. When Anita confronted him, she learned that her son had dropped out of school three months prior.
“I was confused,” Anita said. She recalls watching Jonte get ready for school and take his book bag every morning on his way out of the house, but he wasn’t going to school.
For the next three years, Anita tried to push him to do something else. She told him about job opportunities she had come across. At one point, Jonte even held a manager position at a Burger King in Viera. But he wasn’t satisfied.
The way he explained it to her, the money he was making in two weeks, he could make in an hour. He quit. His main income over the next two decades was through selling drugs.
On December 8, 2016, Jonte went to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando to watch the high school football state championship between Cocoa High School and The Bolles School of Jacksonville. Jonte enjoyed the afternoon watching Cocoa win the title and then hanging out with friends at a Melbourne, Florida, club.
Around 3:00 a.m., Jonte was driving the group back home, heading north on Fiske Boulevard. When he began to make a left turn onto Mitchell Street, bullets were fired, smashing through the car’s windows.
The other two passengers in the car were able to duck down and avoid the gunshots, but Jonte was not so lucky. One bullet struck Jonte in the back of the head at the base of his skull.
Jonte was airlifted from a nearby soccer field and flown to Holmes Regional Medical Center, where he remained in a coma. After waking up, he would spend the next month at Sea Pines Rehabilitation Hospital. He could not walk on his own and when he spoke, he slurred his words.
“I would talk to him every day,” Anita said. Even when he was comatose, she would visit him each day.
Jonte’s wife, Monique, was a wonderful caretaker during this time, Anita said.
This time was difficult for Jonte’s entire family – his mother, his wife, and his three kids – Tevion, Delvesha, and Jamarian.
It was especially tough for Anita, who had adopted three children. Even with assistance, balancing the younger children’s upbringing with her oldest being hospitalized was very difficult.
Anita was devastated when Jonte died. “For two years, I couldn’t get out of bed,” she said. She stated that she wanted to die too. She would often wonder whether she would be reunited with Jonte if she died.
Since then, Anita has found support in her family, faith, and has joined support groups to meet other survivors and share stories.
“I’m continuing to raise my children, but Jonte never leaves my mind.”
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Jonte Thomas, please call the Cocoa Police Department at (321) 639-7620.
Research & Impact
In working with numerous survivors, our office continues to hear many common themes. One of the more difficult challenges facing survivors is their role as advocate for their loved one’s case.
Survivors face a lot of hurdles but being thrust into the advocate role is often an expected happenstance. These survivors, while continuing to grieve their loved one, are now the go-between with the investigating agency, the media, and any other public awareness for their loved one. Survivors often need to be self-aware to take a step back and take care of themselves. It’s important to find the right balance between grieving, advocating, and continuing in life.
Ensuring that a survivor recognizes and address their own needs is a delicate undertaking. No survivor should ever feel guilty for concentrating on themselves for any period of time.
Project: Cold Case hosts monthly peer support groups that have created a community of fellow survivors to share experiences and exchange stories and struggles. For more information, click here.
Please consider using the buttons below to share this case in hopes that someone, somewhere will come forward and give this victim and family the answers they need and justice they deserve.
If you have a loved one that is the victim of an unsolved homicide, please submit their case here for consideration in a future Cold Case Spotlight post.