A woman accused of driving her minivan with three children in it into the ocean in Daytona Beach Tuesday was charged with three counts of Attempted First-degree Murder Friday. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office says 32-year old Ebony Wilkerson was also charged with three counts of Child Abuse. Sheriff’s spokesperson Gary Davidson said investigators arrested Wilkerson as she was released from a mental health evaluation at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach. She was expected to be booked into the Volusia County Jail in Daytona Beach and held without bond.
Sheriff’s investigators, after interviewing family members, officers and bystanders from the incident Tuesday said, “Ebony Wilkerson acted with premeditated design to kill her three children.” The arrests were made after investigators met with the State Attorney’s Office and County Judge Shirley Green. Judge Green signed the warrant for Wilkerson’s arrest.
Sister requested mental health checks
In the Charging Affidavit, Sheriff’s investigators say they discovered that Wilkerson’s sister had made a call earlier in the day Tuesday, requesting police to evaluate Wilkerson’s mental state. The affidavit says Daytona Beach Police met with Wilkerson and her children and determined that she “…did not meet Baker Act criteria.” Wilkerson’s father also told a Beach Safety investigator that Wilkerson’s sister had taken Wilkerson to Halifax Hospital for a mental health evaluation Monday, but Wilkerson “…left against the advice of medical personnel.”
Father: Wilkerson in abusive relationship
In speaking with Wilkerson’s father Tuesday evening, the Beach Safety investigator said he was told that Wilkerson, “…was involved in an abusive relationship with her husband and had come to Florida to get away from her husband who currently lives in South Carolina.” The father also told investigators that Wilkerson had no history of mental illness and was a very good mother.
Investigator interview with Wilkerson
The Volusia County Beach Safety investigator also spoke at Halifax Hospital with Ebony Wilkerson Tuesday, according to the Charging Affidavit. When asked about the beach incident, Wilkerson said “…she had endured fourteen years of agony with her husband….” The investigator said Wilkerson also, “…seemed confused and jumped from one religious topic to another.” After returning to the topic of the beach incident, the investigator said Wilkerson stated, “…she was driving too close to the water and the waves pulled her in.” The investigator also said that toward the end of their conversation, Wilkerson said, “…she did not want her husband around her children.”
Incident and rescue details
The Sheriff’s Office says Wilkerson “…locked the doors [of the minivan], put up the windows and told her three frightened children to close their eyes and go to sleep…” as she drove the 2012 Honda Odyssey into the ocean surf south of the Silver Beach entrance in Daytona Beach Tuesday afternoon. Investigators say Wilkerson “…ignored the children’s pleas for help…insisting that she was taking herself and her three children to a ‘safer place.’”
The Sheriff’s Office says an eyewitness who assisted in the rescue of the children told investigators he saw a child on Wilkerson’s lap in the minivan and the two “…were fighting for control of the steering wheel.” After one of the children lowered the power windows, “…the children started screaming for help.” The Sheriff’s Office says bystanders then came by, but Wilkerson “…told them everyone was O.K.” But investigators report that the children “…were screaming that their mother was trying to kill them.” When the minivan stopped, the Sheriff’s Office says, “…ocean water was rushing into the minivan and the vehicle was quickly filling up. Wilkerson then exited the minivan and left her children inside the vehicle.”
The nine-year old and 10-year old were pulled from the vehicle by the Beach Patrol, according to the Sheriff’s Office, and the children were taken to shore by by-standers. The two children also said that their three-year old sister was still in the van. The Beach Patrol Officers were then able to get the three-year-old out of the minivan through a side window, and also confirmed that no one else was in the vehicle. In the Charging Affidavit, one witness also told investigators that Wilkerson tried to keep one Beach Patrol officer from entering the minivan to save the child, and the officer had to push Wilkerson away to get to the child. Afterwards, the children were turned over to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
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