EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

National News

March 9, 2014

$1.2 million bail set for mom who drove kids into ocean

A Florida judge yesterday set bail at $1.2 million for the pregnant woman accused of trying to kill her three children this week by locking them in a minivan that she drove into Daytona Beach’s 4-foot-high surf.

Ebony Wilkerson, 32, remained in custody as of yesterday afternoon, according to Volusia County jail records. The mother from South Carolina was charged Friday with three counts of attempted first-degree murder and three counts of child abuse causing great bodily harm.

Investigators allege that on Tuesday afternoon Wilkerson locked the doors of a black Honda Odyssey, rolled up the windows and told her three children to close their eyes as she took them to a “safer place” far away from her allegedly violent husband. She fought attempts of the oldest child and a rescuer to save the siblings, Volusia County sheriff’s investigators said.

However, a beach safety officer saw her car driving erratically on the edge of the waterline before turning east fully into the surf. Beachgoers and safety officers rescued a boy and two girls from the minivan as it was lashed by waves.

“It was something I had to do,” Wilkerson allegedly told the people at the scene.

The disoriented mother got out of the minivan on her own, leaving the children behind, and tried to stop one of the rescuers from saving them, witnesses told investigators.

The children — a 3-year-old girl, 9-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl — were in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families. None of the children suffered serious injuries, the sheriff’s department said.

The two older children feared for their lives, the department said. The 10-year-old grabbed the steering wheel, but struggled with Wilkerson to keep the vehicle out of the water, authorities said.

One of the children was able to lower a window, allowing them to scream for help and successfully get the attention of beachgoers, according to the sheriff’s department account.

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