Tia Hernlen’s Story of Bravery Amid Tragedy

Tia Hernlen

True crime stories often captivate us with their raw and emotional narratives, and the story of Tia Hernlen is no exception. This heart-wrenching tale revolves around a brave 5-year-old girl who showed remarkable composure and courage in the face of unimaginable terror. For true crime enthusiasts, parents, and local news readers alike, Tia Hernlen’s story is a poignant reminder of innocence disrupted by violence and the resilience that can emerge from the darkest moments.


Imagine being 5 years old, awoken by the terrifying sound of gunshots, and discovering your parents in a dire state. This was the reality for Tia Hernlen, a young girl from Florida whose life changed forever on a tragic morning in March 2005. In this blog post, we’ll explore the harrowing details of that fateful day, the bravery Tia displayed, and the broader implications of the incident. By the end, you’ll gain insight into the events, human emotions, and community response.

The Fateful Morning

In the early hours of March 28, 2005, Tia Hernlen was startled awake by the sound of gunfire. Alone in her home, she discovered her parents, Julie and Aeneas Hernlen, gravely injured. Tia’s immediate reaction was to call 911, a decision that showcased her incredible composure and presence of mind despite her young age.

The 911 Call

Tia Hernlen’s 911 call is both chilling and awe-inspiring. Her calm demeanor during the conversation with the operator is a testament to her bravery. The call begins with Tia stating, “I think they’re dead.” When the operator gently probes further, Tia explains, “There’s blood on the plant and the floor.” Despite her fear, she conveyed crucial information to the operator, ensuring help would arrive quickly.

Tia Hernlen’s Bravery

Throughout the call, Tia Hernlen maintained her composure, even as she described the frightening scene around her. The operator’s empathetic responses helped keep Tia calm, and the young girl provided necessary details about her surroundings and the family’s pets. This interaction highlights the incredible strength and maturity Tia demonstrated during an unimaginably traumatic experience.

The Hernlen Family

Before the tragedy, Julie and Aeneas Hernlen were devoted parents and valued community members. Julie was 31 years old, and Aeneas was 29. They were known for their kindness and commitment to their daughter, Tia. Understanding their lives before the incident helps create a fuller picture of the family and the devastating impact of their loss.

Julie and Aeneas Hernlen

Julie and Aeneas were dedicated parents who worked hard to provide a loving home for Tia. They enjoyed spending time together as a family, often engaging in outdoor activities and community events. Their bond was evident to those who knew them, making the tragedy all the more heartrending.

Impact on Tia Hernlen

The loss of her parents was a life-altering event for Tia Hernlen. At just 5 years old, she faced a future without the two people who loved her most. The immediate concern for Tia’s well-being was paramount, and she was placed in the care of family members who could provide the support and stability she needed.

The Tragic Incident

The perpetrator of this heinous crime was David Edward Johnson, a man who wrongly believed that the Hernlens had reported him to law enforcement for growing marijuana and possessing steroids. His misguided anger led to an act of unimaginable violence.

David Edward Johnson

David Edward Johnson, aged 33, was consumed by the belief that the Hernlens were responsible for his legal troubles. On that fateful morning, driven by rage and paranoia, he broke into their home and fatally shot Julie and Aeneas before taking his own life later that day. No suicide note was found, leaving many questions unanswered.

The Aftermath

The community was left reeling in the wake of the tragedy. Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson expressed his sorrow and concern for Tia’s future, noting the impressive composure she displayed during the 911 call. Despite the horror of the situation, Tia’s bravery shone through, providing a glimmer of hope amid the darkness.

Community Response

The response from the community was swift and heartfelt. Neighbors, friends, and even strangers rallied around Tia Hernlen, offering support and assistance in any way they could. Fundraisers were organized to help with her immediate needs and to secure her future.

Support for Tia Hernlen

The outpouring of support for Tia Hernlen was overwhelming. People from all walks came together to provide financial assistance, emotional support, and practical help. This collective effort demonstrated the power of community and the importance of coming together in times of crisis.

Efforts to Prevent Future Tragedies

In the aftermath of the tragedy, there were calls for better measures to prevent similar incidents. Discussions about gun control, mental health support, and the effectiveness of restraining orders gained renewed attention. While these conversations are complex and ongoing, the hope is that lessons learned from this tragedy can help prevent future acts of violence.

Legal and Emotional Implications

The legal proceedings following the incident highlighted the challenges of preventing such tragedies. The Hernlens had sought a restraining order against Johnson, but it was denied due to insufficient evidence of violence. This case underscores the difficulties in taking preventative legal action and the need for a more robust system to protect potential victims.

The Role of Restraining Orders

Restraining orders are designed to protect individuals facing threats. However, as the Hernlen case illustrates, these orders are ineffective. The denial of the Hernlens’ request for a restraining order raises important questions about how such decisions are made and what can be done to improve the process.

Emotional Toll on Tia Hernlen

The emotional impact on Tia Hernlen cannot be overstated. Losing both parents in such a violent manner is a trauma that will likely have long-lasting effects. While Tia’s immediate needs were addressed through the support of family and community, the psychological scars of that morning will require ongoing attention and care.

Long-Term Support and Healing

For Tia Hernlen, healing is a long-term process. Access to counseling and mental health services is crucial in helping her cope with the trauma and build a future for herself. The community’s continued support will play a vital role in her recovery.

Advocacy and Awareness

The tragic incident involving the Hernlen family has also fueled efforts to advocate for greater awareness and preventative measures against domestic violence and related crimes. Advocacy groups have utilized this case as a poignant example to highlight the legal and social systems gaps that should protect vulnerable individuals.

Legislative Changes

In response to the outcry following the Hernlen tragedy, several legislative changes have been proposed and, in some cases, enacted. These include stricter gun control laws, enhanced review processes for restraining orders, and increased funding for mental health services. Lawmakers hope these changes will provide better protection for individuals at risk and reduce the likelihood of similar tragedies occurring.

Community Resilience

Despite the horror of the tragedy, the Hernlen family’s story is also one of community resilience. The support and solidarity shown towards Tia HernlenTia Hernlen reflect the strength and compassion of the community. This resilience is crucial in helping those affected by violence rebuild their lives and serves as an inspiring reminder of the impact that collective action and empathy can have.

Moving Forward

As the years pass, Tia Hernlen continues to grow and rebuild her life with the support of her family and community. Her story is a testament to the immense courage and resilience of a young girl who faced unimaginable hardship. The focus remains on ensuring that Tia receives the ongoing care and support she needs while honoring the memory of her parents, Julie and Aeneas. The lessons learned from this tragedy continue to guide efforts to create a safer and more compassionate society.


The story of Tia Hernlen is one of both tragedy and bravery, serving as a stark reminder of life’s fragility and the human spirit’s remarkable strength. Tia’s composure during the harrowing 911 call at such a young age is a testament to her courage and presence of mind in the face of unimaginable terror. The community’s overwhelming outpouring of support, from heartfelt messages to tangible assistance, underscores the collective empathy and solidarity that often emerge after such tragedies. The ongoing discussions about preventing similar incidents reflect a societal commitment to learning from the past to forge a safer future.

For true crime enthusiasts, this story serves as a poignant example of the real-life consequences of violence, going beyond sensationalism to highlight the deep, personal impacts on victims and their communities. It reminds us that behind every headline is a human story filled with emotions and resilience. For parents, it is a sobering reminder of the need for vigilance in protecting our children and the immeasurable power of love and support in their lives. The narrative of Tia Hernlen is not just a story of loss but also incredible strength and perseverance.

For local news readers, this compelling narrative underscores the resilience of a young girl who, despite facing the unimaginable, showed incredible strength and grace. It also highlights the importance of community support in healing and moving forward. The story of Tia Hernlen is a call to action, urging us to come together and offer emotional and practical support to those affected by crime.

To learn more about supporting victims of crime and preventing future tragedies, consider engaging with local organizations and initiatives dedicated to these causes. These organizations work tirelessly to provide resources, support, and advocacy for victims and their families. By getting involved, we can help ensure fewer families endure such hardships. Together, we can honor the memory of Julie and Aeneas Hernlen and work towards a brighter, safer future for Tia and others like her. Let us take this tragic story as a catalyst for change, motivating us to contribute to a community where safety, support, and compassion are paramount.

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