Despite her claims that she only accidentally drove a minivan filled with her children into the ocean in Daytona Beach, Florida, a pregnant mother of two is being charged with attempted murder and other crimes.
Ebony Wilkerson, a six-months pregnant 32-yer old, was charged with a list of crimes including child abuse and the attempted murder of her two children, ages 9 and 10, who were in the car with her when she drove her vehicle into the surf.
Wilkerson, a South Carolina resident, was in Florida visiting her sister but began acting erratically. The sister called police when Wilkerson began ranting incoherently and drove away with her children in the vehicle. “She’s talking about Jesus, that there’s demons in the house,” the sister was heard telling a 911 operator.
Police pulled the woman over minutes later but let her go because she didn’t exhibit any behavior that led them to believe she might hurt someone.
Not long after that, however, Wilkerson’s van was seen careening into the ocean.
Lifeguards quickly braved the roiling waters to get the children out of the van and back onto dry land.
Tim Tesseneer, one of those who helped rescue the children, told Orlando’s Channel 2, “The two in the backseat was crying with their arms out, saying: ‘Our mommy’s trying to kill us, please help.'”
In the arrest affidavit, Wilkerson claimed that “it was something I had to do.” She also insisted she meant to take her children to “a safer place.”
The children told investigators that their mother told them “to close their eyes and go to sleep” as she drove into the surf. But her ten-year-old son reportedly fought back, attempting to wrest the steering wheel from his mother’s control.
Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson revealed more details of the incident in a press conference.
The sheriff told reporters that Wilkerson claimed that she was actually trying to drive out of the surf, but eyewitnesses disputed that story.
Johnson also alleged that the woman tried to hamper rescue attempts. “She tried to stop one of the beach rangers from getting into the window,” he said.
“You’re supposed to protect your children at all costs,” Sheriff Johnson said. “You’re not supposed to be trying to kill your children.”
The father of Wilkerson’s children has been identified as Lutful Ronjon. The 31-year old was charged with domestic battery against his wife in 2005, but the charge was dismissed after Ronjon completed a domestic violence program.
Ronjon promised to speak to investigators but never showed up for the planned meeting.
James Purdy, the elected public defender for the 7th Judicial Circuit of Florida, announced that Wilkerson’s bond was set at $1.2 million.