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Volusia County Sheriff's Office arrests woman who drove van with children into ocean
By Pat Andrews
posted Mar 7, 2014 - 3:41:52pm
A woman whom Volusia County Sheriff's Office investigators said drove her minivan — with her children in it — into rough ocean surf at Daytona Beach March 4, has now been arrested.
The incident has been the topic of conversation across Volusia County and the country.
This morning, Friday, March 7, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office charged 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson with three counts of attempted first-degree murder and three counts of child abuse.
Here's what happened, the Sheriff's Office reported: "Wilkerson locked the doors of her 2012 Honda Odyssey, put up the windows and told her three frightened children to close their eyes and go to sleep. She then ignored the children’s pleas for help," as Wilkerson drove into the surf.
Investigators said Wilkerson spoke of taking herself and her three children to “a safer place.”
Beach Safety officers and concerned bystanders who saw Wilkerson drive the van into the water rescued her three children, a 3-year-old girl, 9-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, from the minivan,
While at the hospital afterward, the children said, “Mom tried to kill us,” and the oldest child told beach officers that her mother took them to the beach “so we could die,” the Sheriff's Office reported.
The Sheriff's Office reported one of the children said that Wilkerson had locked the doors, put the windows up and then drove into the surf, saying she was doing it to “keep all of us safe.”
The oldest child grabbed the steering wheel and unsuccessfully tried to steer the vehicle away from the water, the Sheriff's Office reported.
During an interview with a sheriff’s investigator, a witness who helped with the rescue reported seeing a child on Wilkerson’s lap, and said the two were fighting for control of the steering wheel.
One of the children pushed the power button to lower the windows, and the children started screaming for help, Sheriff's Office spokesman Gary Davidson stated.
When bystanders heard the ruckus and tried to approach the van, Wilkerson told them everyone was OK. But the children were screaming that their mother was trying to kill them, Davidson said.
By the time the vehicle stopped, the ocean water was rushing into the minivan and the vehicle was quickly filling up.
Wilkerson then got out of the minivan and left her children inside the vehicle, Davidson said.
The two older children were pulled to safety first and then, after they reported that their younger sister was still in the vehicle, the toddler was extracted through the minivan’s rear hatch.
A witness said that during the rescue, one of the beach safety officers had to fend off Wilkerson, who was grabbing at the officer and trying to stop him from entering the vehicle, the Sheriff's Office reported.
“Ebony Wilkerson acted with premeditated design to kill her three children,” investigators stated in the charging affidavit.
Davidson reported that a family member said Wilkerson had no history of mental illness, but had traveled to Florida from South Carolina to get away from an abusive relationship with her husband,
She underwent an evaluation at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, and was charged with the attempted murders upon her release March 7. Wilkerson is being held without bond at the Volusia County Branch Jail.
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