The South Carolina woman who, on March 4, 2014, drove into the ocean in Dayton Beach with the intention of killing three of her children has been released.
The mother was also pregnant at the time.
911 call – Ocala Post file/2014
As she drove her minivan into the rough ocean surf at Daytona Beach that Tuesday afternoon, Ebony Wilkerson, then 32, 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.
Volusia County Sheriff’s investigators learned that Wilkerson ignored the children’s pleas for help and that, she insisted that she was taking herself and her three children to “a safer place.”
Volusia County Beach Safety officers responded to the initial incident that Tuesday afternoon and teamed up with several beach-goers to rescue the children — a 3-year-old girl, 9-year-old boy, and a 10-year-old girl.
Witnesses described the screams of the children as “a heart-piercing cry for help.”
While at the hospital, the children declared: “Mom tried to kill us.” The oldest child told beach officers that her mother took them to the beach “so we could die.”
One of the children said that Wilkerson had locked the doors, put the windows up, and then drove into the ocean while 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.
During an interview with a Sheriff’s investigator, a witness who helped with the rescue reported seeing a child on Wilkerson’s lap and 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. Their yelling attracted bystanders, and when they approached the vehicle, Wilkerson told them everyone was O.K. However, the children were screaming that their mother was trying to kill them.
By the time the vehicle stopped, the ocean water was rushing into the minivan and the vehicle was quickly filling up. Wilkerson then exited the minivan and left her children inside the vehicle. 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.
According to a witness, 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.
Sheriff’s investigators also interviewed a family member, who said that Wilkerson was in an abusive relationship and that she had come to Florida with her children to get away from her husband. The relative also said that Wilkerson had no history of mental illness.
“Ebony Wilkerson acted with a premeditated design to kill her three children,” investigators concluded in the charging affidavit. After consulting with the State Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s investigators presented the results of their investigation to County Judge Shirley Green, who signed the warrant On March 6, for Wilkerson’s arrest.
Wilkerson was arrested on Friday, March 7, 2014, on three counts of Attempted First-Degree Murder and three counts of Child Abuse. She was arrested at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, where she had been taken for a mental health evaluation.
In December of 2014, Wilkerson made a deal with prosecutors and plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors dropped three counts of Attempted First-Degree Murder and three counts of Child Abuse.
On September 19, 2019, Volusia County Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano Thursday, released Ebony Wilkerson, 38, and let her return home to her family.
She has been between jail and a state hospital getting help from mental health professionals for over five years.
Wilkerson will still be on medications and has to see a mental health doctor when she returns home to her family in Myrtle Beach.
Ocala Post reached out to Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood to see how he felt about the mother’s release, but he was not available for comment at the time this article was published.