Ebony Wilkerson. (Volusia County Corrections)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., March 7 (UPI) -- A woman who drove her minivan into the ocean at Daytona Beach with her three children still inside has been charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.
Ebony Wilkerson, who is also pregnant, underwent evaluation that determined she had intentionally tried to kill the children. Her oldest son, 10, told officers they went to the beach "so we could die," investigators said.
"She told them 'close your eyes and go to sleep,' she was taking them to a better place," said Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson.
Investigators said Wilkerson rolled up the windows and locked the doors of her 2012 Honda Odyssey as she drove into the ocean on Tuesday. Wilkerson claimed she was trying to reverse course, but witnesses contradicted her story.
"Her son was actually trying to fight her for the steering wheel to bring them back out of the surf," said Johnson. "She tried to stop someone from going into the vehicle. She definitely tried to kill her children from everything we've seen."
Wilkerson's family told investigators she had been acting strangely in the days leading up to the incident, beginning with a confrontation involving officers on Saturday.
Police in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, were called to a hotel room where Wilkerson said her husband held her down and assaulted her in front of the children. Although the couple has a documented history of domestic violence, the husband was not arrested, and Florida deputies have not been able to interview him as he is still out of state.
And Tuesday, less than three hours before Wilkerson steered her car onto the beach, her sister called police and said she believed Wilkerson was having a psychotic episode. Wilkerson was stopped by Daytona Beach police, but said she could not be held because she did not make direct homicidal or suicidal statements.
All three of Wilkerson's children were rescued, and then treated at a hospital and released. They remain in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families, but once background checks are completed, will likely be released to family in Central Florida.