The mom who drove her van into the ocean with her children, ages 3, 9, and 10, had spoken to her sister about demons just hours before steering her minivan right into the Atlantic in Daytona Beach on Tuesday. According to a March 5, 2014, WESH Orlando report, Tim Tesseneer, of Rutherfordton, N.C., said he was one of the two men to first reach the minivan as it was being pulled into the Atlantic Ocean by the heavy surf. After the successful rescue, Tesseneer said that the mother just walked away, silent with a strange, almost “possessed” look on her face.
WESH is identifying the pregnant mother of the three children as 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson of South Carolina.
Just two hours before driving her van into the ocean, the pregnant mom's sister had called Daytona Beach police because Wilkerson had been “acting odd.” On Wednesday, Police Chief Mike Chitwood said that “her sister had called dispatch and told them that she had been talking about demons that day before she left the house.”
When police pulled over Wilkerson’s minivan to do a “well-being check,” she told officers that she was going to a “safe place” that she had worked out with a domestic violence shelter because she was afraid that her ex-husband would hurt her and the children.
Since the pregnant woman did not meet the Baker Act requirements, which would have allowed the police officers to take her into custody, they had to let her go.
Just a short time later, when Tim Tesseneer was driving along Daytona Beach with his wife, he saw Wilkerson's van in the shallow water of the ocean. One of the children was waving for help through the back seat window yelling, “please help us, our mom is trying to kill us," while the other child was wrestling the mom for the steering wheel.
When a second man, Stacy Robinson, came to the rescue, Wilkerson just kept saying, “We're OK. We're OK. We're OK." She then stepped on the accelerator, turned left, and shot into the cold and heavy surf of the Atlantic Ocean.
In a battle against the pull of the water, both rescuers opened the door of the minivan and pulled out the two panicked children who were yelling, “no there's a baby. There's a baby.”
A lifeguard, who had arrived at the scene, found a three-year-old girl strapped in the car seat as the van was sinking. The lifeguard dove in through a front window, unbuckled the child, and handed her to another lifeguard.
While the three-year-old girl was still inside the minivan, Wilkerson had gotten out. She was silent and appeared disoriented. "She had this look on her face," said Tesseneer. "I can't describe it. It was just an awful blank look, like spaced out look."
After the mom had driven her van into the ocean, all three children were taken to a hospital and are now in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families. The children will be placed with family members after a background check has been conducted. Their pregnant mom remains in the hospital so that a mental evaluation can determine whether she will be facing any charges, and whether her “demons” are based on her fear of her ex-husband.