On Tuesday, Ebony Wilkerson, a 32 year-old pregnant mother of three from South Carolina, attempted to murder her kids by driving them into the sea in Daytona Beach, Florida, in a locked minivan. According to the children, two girls, 3 and 10 and a 9 year-old boy, they were riding with their mother in a 2012 black Honda Odessey minivan. Wilkerson locked the doors of the vehicle, rolled up the windows and told the children to shut their eyes as if they were going to sleep because they were going to be better off. The oldest child seized the steering wheel and made a failed attempt to steer the vehicle away from the water. The two oldest kids struggled to overtake the steering wheel from their mother. Luckily, the power button was pushed by one of the children and when the windows lowered they frantically screamed for help which attracted the attention of bystanders.
Approaching witnesses heard the kids screaming that their mother was trying to kill them. When the van stopped and started to submerge, water began to flood inside and Wilkerson escaped the van and left her children inside. The two older children were immediately rescued but the 3 year-old girl was still inside the van strapped in the car seat, rapidly she was pulled out through the rear hatch. According to a statement of one witness, a beach safety officer had to physically ward off Wilkerson during the rescue. Wilkerson was grabbing at the officer to prevent him from saving the children from the submerging van. The mother is being charged with three counts of attempted murder and three counts of child abuse by trying to murder her kids with her minivan.
According to arrest records, Wilkerson was taken to a hospital by her sister for a mental-health check but the pregnant mother left against the recommendation of the medical staff. That same day, before Wilkerson drove the vehicle offshore, her sister called 911 requesting a well-being check; however, the sister was told that Wilkerson was released from the hospital. She took off with the children in her minivan and was later pulled over by a police officer. The officer claimed that it was obvious that her mental state was unstable; however, he had no reason to arrest her. Under Florida’s Baker Act, the officer could have detained her on a psychiatric hold, but there were no grounds to have done so.
Wilkerson was placed in custody in the county jail without bond after undergoing mental health assessments in the Halifax Health Medical Center. After the incident, the children were taken to hospital, but they endured no injuries and are in the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families. Eventually, the minivan with South Carolina license plates was extracted out of the water by a tow rope. Beach safety officers told authorities that they had seen the van driving carelessly on the sand. It is legal to drive and park a vehicle 24 hours a day on Daytona Beach’s shoreline from the months of November to April.
Child service investigators are in looking into the family’s history by talking to another family member to validate any child abuse. The family member being interviewed informed that Wilkerson was in an abusive marriage and came to Florida with her kids to distance herself from her husband. The family member also stated that Wilkerson never had a history of mental illness, which makes it hard to believe why this mother of three would attempt to murder her children in her minivan.
By Isriya Kendrick