DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Video captured by beach cameras was released Monday showing a South Carolina woman driving a minivan carrying her three children into the ocean off Daytona Beach, Fla.
Authorities in Volusia County said the video, which is of uneven quality, shows the minivan, driven by 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson, traveling along the shoreline on Tuesday, March 4, before it eventually veers into the water.
Wilkerson was arrested Friday on three counts of premeditated attempted first-degree murder and three counts of child abuse. She was taken into custody at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, where she had been taken for a mental health evaluation following the incident.
"She definitely tried to kill her children," Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said in announcing the charges.
Police say Wilkerson, who is pregnant, locked the doors of her 2012 Honda Odyssey, put up the windows and told her three frightened children - ages 3, 9 and 10 - to close their eyes and go to sleep as she drove into the ocean.
According to authorities, the mother ignored the children's pleas for help and insisted she was taking herself and her three children to "a safer place." As water rushed into the minivan, Wilkerson left the vehicle with her children inside, a sheriff's office report said.
The children were rescued by beach officials and onlookers, and were not seriously injured. They were placed in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Hours before driving into the ocean, Wilkerson had talked about demons when she left her sister's house in Daytona Beach, a police report said. Her worried sister called Daytona Beach police.
After the call to dispatch, police officers stopped Wilkerson's black Honda Odyssey and she reportedly expressed fear that her husband would be coming to Florida to harm her and her children.
The children were sitting quietly in the car, smiling, and showed no signs of distress, the police report said.
"It was clear during my conversation that Wilkerson was suffering from some form of mental illness, but she was lucid and did not provide any signs that she met Baker Act requirements," the Daytona Beach police officer said in the report. The Florida Mental Health Act, commonly known as the Baker Act, allows authorities to involuntarily take people into custody if they seem to be a threat to themselves.
Family members told investigators that Wilkerson was in an abusive relationship and that she had come to Florida to get away from her husband, according to the sheriff's office report.