Mom who drove minivan in ocean faces reduced charges

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Lowcountry mom Ebony Wilkerson was arrested and charged with three counts of first degree attempted murder and child abuse charges after driving her minivan with her three small kids into the ocean in Florida on March 4.

Prosecutors in Daytona Beach say they've reduced the charges and have filed second-degree attempted{} murder and child abuse charges against the pregnant South Carolina mom.

According to sources in Florida, the prosecutors wouldn't say why charges were reduced.

Local criminal layer and former Attorney General of South Carolina, Charlie Condon, said the reduction of charges might be a smart move for the prosecution.

"On the face of it, it looks troublesome because the charges have been reduced, but looking behind that, it appears to me it actually is a very serious step" said Charlie Condon. "It is a criminal case. It needs to be prosecuted and we are bringing a charge that we are confident we can prove."

Condon served as state Attorney General during the high-profile Susan Smith case. Smith was found guilty of murder after killing her two small boys, Michael and Alex, by driving her car into a lake. Condon said that the two cases are similar but the biggest difference is Wilkerson's kids survived the event and the act of Wilkerson driving the car into the ocean was done in a very public manner.

"It looks to me, reading between the lines here, that they feel uncomfortable with the first degree -- that the intent is just not there," Condon said. "And given the fact that it is on a public beach, she just drove into the surf, and other folks are able to stop it."

Condon adds that the reduction of the charges from the prosecution could stem from the notion of pre-meditation.

"Going for the first charges will be a bit much and you loose credibility with the judge and the jury if you overreach and it sounds like an appropriate decision by the prosecution."

Ebony Wilkerson was expected to appear in a Florida courtroom Thursday for an arraignment hearing, but that hearing was canceled.