A pregnant mother has been charged with three counts of premeditated attempted first-degree murder and three counts of child abuse after she drove her three young children into the ocean on Tuesday on Daytona Beach.
32-year old Ebony Wilkerson had reportedly been to visit her sister earlier in the day and was acting strangely. Her family says she was reportedly worried that her husband–from whom she had recently fled due to an abusive relationship–would track her down and harm them.
“She’s talking about Jesus, that there’s demons in the house,” said her sister. “She’s got the kids in the car with her.”
Wilkerson’s sister called police, who stopped her van minutes after she left the home to make sure she was okay. According to the police report, Wilkerson’s children seemed happy and were smiling, and although there were signs that she had some issues, there was nothing to indicate that she should be taken into custody.
“It was clear during my conversation that Wilkerson was suffering from some form of mental illness, but she was lucid and did not provide any signs that she met Baker Act requirements,” the officer said in the report. The Baker Act is also known as the Florida Mental Health Act and allows police to take anyone into custody who they believe may be a harm to themselves or others.
Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said that the children were screaming for help after the van went into the water, drawing bystanders who rescued them just before the vehicle was completely submerged. The kids, aged 3, 9, and 10, were locked inside with the windows rolled up before one of them managed to get a window down to yell for help.
“She told them to close their eyes and go to sleep. She was trying to take them to a better place,” Johnson said.
The children are now with child protective services, and although their father has been notified, he has reportedly not met with police. He says that Wilkerson was the abusive one in their relationship.
Image via Thinkstock