Thursday, March 13, 2014
After she drove her minivan into the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean last week, authorities say a pregnant South Carolina woman tried to call off bystanders hustling to rescue her three screaming children from the water that was rushing in through the windows.
Ebony Wilkerson, who was charged with attempted murder Friday, said “everyone was OK” and left the van with her children inside, an affidavit said. The bystanders and beach safety officers, paying no mind to her urgings, pulled the two girls and a boy, ages 3, 9 and 10, through the windows on Daytona Beach.
Later, Wilkerson denied trying to hurt her children, telling investigators she was driving too close to the water, “and the waves pulled her in,” according to the charging affidavit.
Her children told investigators another story.
“Mom tried to kill us,” they told detectives, according to the document. “Mom is crazy.”
Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said the 32-year-old Wilkerson, who according to reports had lived in Cross and currently lives in North Charleston, has been charged with three counts each of first-degree attempted murder and child abuse. Her bail has been set at $1.2 million.
The children told authorities they had come to Florida from South Carolina earlier in the week to escape their father. They described a history of violence between their parents, and they said their mother had been “acting crazy and speaking to Jesus” since they had come to stay with Wilkerson’s sister in Daytona Beach.
One of the rescuers, Tim Tesseneer, said Wilkerson’s eyes were wide open and she looked “possessed.” Wilkerson tried to prevent a beach safety officer from entering the vehicle to rescue the toddler who was the last to be removed from the minivan, Tesseneer told detectives. The children are with the Department of Children and Families.
Harrell told the dispatcher she had tried to take her sister to a hospital the day before the minivan ended up in the surf but Wilkerson had checked herself out. She said Wilkerson had been abused by her husband and that police should check on her.
“She’s getting a little bit better, but she’s still not all there,” Harrell said.
Two days before what happened on the beach, Wilkerson told North Charleston police that she was in a violent altercation with her husband of 14 years at a hotel room in Myrtle Beach and gone to a hospital for treatment, according to an incident report. She also told police that after she packed up the car and kids at their apartment, her husband made a motion as if he was going to grab her, but she got into the car before he could, the report said.
She then went to Walmart to cash in some coins so she’d have money for the trip. She reported that she felt a man was staring at her and followed her at the store and to the North Charleston City Hall where police were called. Officers said they gave her a form for a protective order and she refused being taken to a shelter since she was going to Florida.