Tonisha Lashay Barker, 26, and her 21-month-old son Johnathan Jones are dead after Barker jumped off a Tennessee overpass with her baby in her arms, police said. The Madison County Sheriff’s Office said the incident happened early Monday morning near exit 93 on Interstate 40 east of Jackson, Tennessee, and it is believed to be a murder-suicide, WREG reported.
According to WBBJ, Barker first attempted to drive her vehicle into gas pumps at the Shell station just off exit 93. The sheriff’s office received calls just after 12:30 on Monday morning about a woman trying to drive her vehicle into the pumps, the outlet reported. Callers then informed dispatch that the woman got out of the vehicle with her baby in her arms and walked toward the highway overpass before she “disappeared.”
Police officers then received a call from a truck driver traveling westbound on the I-40 who reported that a “large object” had fallen from the bridge onto his truck, WREG wrote. Responding officers found the bodies of Barker and her child on the road.
The incident is under investigation by the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s heartbreaking to have that situation this morning, especially when someone loses their life. It’s hard on everybody, especially the driver of the vehicle. It’s just a bad situation that we hate to ever receive,” said Madison County Sheriff John Mehr, according to WBBJ.
Barker Was Suffering From Depression After Losing Her Job at a COVID-19 Testing Center
A relative confirmed to WREG that 26-year-old Barker from Memphis was the woman involved in the incident and her son was 21-month-old Johnathan Jones. MCSO Public Information Officer Tom Maples told Local12 that Barker’s death is considered suicide while the baby’s death is under investigation but that Barker “evidently chose to jump off with the child in her hands.”
No motive has been provided by the authorities although the woman’s grandmother spoke to WREG and said Barker had been suffering from depression in the days prior to her death. The Memphis woman had been working at a COVID-19 testing site but the job ended a month ago, the outlet said.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7 by texting HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. Another options is NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), which you can reach by calling 1-800-950-6264 or texting NAMI to 741741.
Barker’s Friends Remembered the Young Woman Online After News of Her Death Broke
Growing up, Barker attended Westwood High School in Memphis, where she was a member of the high school basketball team. She then attended Tennessee State University, according to her LinkedIn page, where she obtained a bachelor of science. At the time of her death, she listed her current employment as a medical screener with the Shelby County Government, a position she held since June 2020.
Many of Barker’s friends posted on social media after news of her death broke. One friend wrote that the two were very close growing up and would support each other through difficult relationships: ” I remember when I would stay at your house all night because I didnt wanna go home. I remember the unannounced visits from us both. I dont know how we fell out but right now the memories I have of you are beautiful. R.I.P Tonisha L. Barker.”
One of her high school friends wrote that she was the 2012 prom queen: “Y’all please keep Ms. Tonisha Lashay Barker family in prayer. My classmate and our 2012 Prom Queen Rest In Peace Pretty Girl this one HARD! This hurts like crazy forever in our hearts!”