Sheriffs: Mom intentionally drove kids into ocean - KMSP-TV

Sheriffs: Mom intentionally drove kids into ocean

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DAYTONA BEACH (FOX 13) -

Investigators have determined a pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan full of her kids into the ocean did not have any mental issues leading up to the incident.

Friday, Ebony Wilkerson, 32, was charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder and three counts of child abuse.

Her children, ages 3, 9, and 10 were rescued from the chilly waters by beach patrol and bystanders, Tuesday.

Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said his office, along with the state attorney's, found Wilkerson intentionally drove into the ocean to kill her kids based on interviews with witnesses and the mother's kids.

"You have people that were around the vehicle that actually saw what she was doing, saw her turn into it, saw her try to keep the officers from rescuing the children," Johnson said.

While being questioned Friday morning, Wilkerson told investigators she was trying to drive out of the surf, not into it.

Sheriff Johnson explained, "We had witnesses that actually saw her going into the surf, witnesses that tried to get the children out of the car. She tried to keep them from rescuing the children. We also have what the children have told us that their mother was trying to kill them."

Hours before the incident Tuesday, a friend of Wilkerson called police and said she was acting oddly, talking about demons, according to a police report.

Law enforcement stopped Wilkerson driving the same van, and she told them about a domestic situation with her husband.

"She showed nothing. There was no display that she was a danger to anyone or herself at that time, so they had no legal right to even Baker Act her," Johnson said.

The Baker Act allows authorities to detain someone who's a threat to themselves or others.

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Ashley Vigil-Otero said usually the Baker Act applies when a law enforcement officer notices a potential threat while interacting with someone.

In this case, it's almost unthinkable that a mother would want to hurt their child," Vigil-Otero said. "So of course we automatically think there's something incredibly unstable or psychiatric going on."

Wilkerson was brought to the hospital right after the incident for a mental evaluation.

According to the sheriff's office, there were no signs of mental illness found.

Sheriff Johnson described Wilkerson as calm, lucid and corporative during questioning.

She will first appear before a judge Saturday morning.

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