DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson announced this afternoon that his agency has filed first-degree attempted murder charges against 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson for driving a minivan containing her three children into the surf. She faces three counts.
Witnesses say she stood outside while the children inside were screaming for help.
They were rescued by Beach Patrol and bystanders who sprung into action.
While Wilkerson remained under mental health care, her children were placed in the hands of the Department of Children and Families.
DCF is trying to find an appropriate family member to place the children, ages 3, 9 and 10, in their home.
This is an exerpt from the Volusia County Sheriff's Office:
"As she drove her minivan into the rough ocean surf at Daytona Beach Tuesday afternoon, 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson 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. She then ignored the children’s pleas for help, Volusia County Sheriff’s investigators learned, insisting that she was taking herself and her three children to “a safer place.”
"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.”
Investigators learned that one of the children told them their mother had locked the doors, put the windows up and then drove into the surf, saying she was doing it to “keep all of us safe.”
The oldest child grabbed the steering wheel and tried to steer the vehicle away from the water. When bystanders approached the vehicle, Wilkerson told them everything was okay, but the screams of the kids told a different story.
As the ocean water rushed into the minivan, Wilkerson then got out and left her children inside.
A family member told investigators 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 she had no history of mental illness.
Wilkerson was arrested late this morning at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach. Once investigators finish processing her, Wilkerson will be booked into the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach and held without bond.
Return here for updates. This is a developing story.