Affidavit: 'She was crazy,' says child of mom who drove into ocean

Rescue on Daytona Beach (Source: YouTube)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP/WCIV) - Officials say the woman who drove her minivan into the Atlantic Ocean off Daytona Beach this week did it intentionally. Now charges have been filed against the woman.{}

According to Sheriff Ben Johnson, 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson tried to kill her children. Now she's been charged with three counts of first-degree attempted murder and three counts of child abuse causing great bodily harm.

A Florida judge set her bond at $1.2 million Saturday morning.

"Ebony Wilkerson acted with premeditated design to kill her three children," investigators concluded in the charging affidavit.

Johnson said in interviews with the children, investigators learned that Wilkerson told them to close their eyes before driving into the ocean because they were going to a better place.

"Mom was going to drive us in the ocean to die," one of the children told investigators. "She was crazy."

One of the children told investigators that he tried to grab the steering wheel from Wilkerson and steer the car back onto the beach. A witness told deputies that it was clear Wilkerson and a child in the car were fighting for control of the minivan.

According to investigators, the child was able to put down the windows, allowing the screams to be heard. That attracted help from other beachgoers, deputies said.

One of the responding officers said he had to fight off Wilkerson who was trying to stop him from rescuing the youngest child from the van.

Wilkerson is also nearly seven months pregnant, Johnson said.{}

Detectives interviewed Wilkerson at a nearby hospital where she underwent a mental evaluation. According to an affidavit, she said she had been abused by her husband for the last 14 years.{}

"She seemed confused and jumped from one religious topic to another," the affidavit states. But Wilkerson said the waves pulled the car into the ocean.

Wilkerson will be booked into the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach and held without bond.

Wilkerson claims assault in Myrtle Beach hotel

Back in the Palmetto State, Wilkerson told Myrtle Beach police her husband sexually assaulted her last week, said Captain David Knipes with the Myrtle Beach Police Department.

Knipes said Wilkerson told police she and her husband were on vacation.

Her husband told police Wilkerson assaulted him, said Knipes. No arrests have been made in that incident.

After filing the report in Myrtle Beach, Wilkerson made her way back to North Charleston, according to a North Charleston Police report.

The report states Wilkerson came to City Hall on March 2 to talk to officers because Myrtle Beach police had not acted on her previous complaint against her husband.

Wilkerson told NCPD officers her husband had raped her in their hotel room while the family was on vacation in Myrtle Beach. She said she took her children and left the hotel and went home to their apartment on Dorchester Road.

The report says Wilkerson left her home to go to Florida to be with her family but was approached by her husband who "made a motion with his hands as if he was going to grab her." She said she got into her vehicle to get away from him and went to the Walmart on Dorchester Rd with a friend following her to cash in some coins for money. She told NCPD officers that an "unknown white male kept staring at her while they where in the check outlane" and she was "followed to the North Charleston City Hall by an unknown white or Hispanic male."

An NCPD officer escorted Wilkerson and her kids to the to the College Park Road exit "without any further incident" because she was scared that someone was following her.

A Florida affidavit backs up Wilkerson's story to some degree.{}

During an interview with one of her children, the child said Wilkerson decided to drive to Florida because she was tired of fighting with their father in front of the children. The girl also said she had seen her father hit her mother in the past.{}

The girl also told investigators that police had been to their home in the past for domestic disturbances. At one point, a person was sent to talk to the children, but Wilkerson and their father told them all not to speak, according to the affidavit.

According to a police report, the woman's sister called officers for a well being check on her sister, 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson, who had been "talking about demons" before leaving home with her three children.

An officer caught up to Wilkerson{}and checked on her and according to the report, she appeared calm and the children were smiling. Wilkerson{}told the officer that she was concerned her ex-husband was going to find her and her family in Florida.

According to the report, Wilkerson{}said she was going to a safe place that she'd already set up with a domestic violence counselor.{}

"It was clear during my conversation that [she] 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 report reads.

A short time later,{}Wilkerson and her family were rescued from the ocean.

No one was injured.

In 2005, Lutful Ronjon, Wilkerson's then-common-law-husband, was arrested for domestic battery, according to a police report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

According to the report, he got violent after an argument about receipts.

Police said the woman has a small red bruise on her cheek and said Ronjon had punched her.

North Carolina man first to respond to rescue effort

Bystanders and officers helped pull her and her children - ages 3, 9 and 10 - from their minivan as it was almost submerged.

Tim Teseneer was among those rescuers. He was on vacation driving on Daytona Beach with his wife and two children Tuesday when they saw Wilkerson's minivan in the water, the waves pounding on the doors.

"I heard them yelling for help," he said.{}

Teseneer is a volunteer firefighter in Rutherfordton, N.C. His natural instincts kicked in and he took off running, he said. He was the first person to get to the minivan; he says he tried to convince the woman to turn around.

"She had her hands on the wheel, and she looked back and said, 'We're going to be fine,'" Teseneer said.

But the screaming children told him otherwise. Teseneer says the children's screams shook him to his core.

"The boy said, 'Our mom is trying to kill us,'" Teseneer said.

Wilkerson was stopped in her vehicle by police officers two hours before she drove into the ocean. Her sister called police worried since Wilkerson had been talking about demons.

The officers found her lucid and let her go.

Retracing Wilkerson's steps

North Charleston police met Wilkerson Sunday at City Hall where she filed a report saying she had been raped in a Myrtle Beach hotel room.

According to the report, she left the Grand Strand with her children and drove back to North Charleston.

Wilkerson told police she and her children returned to their apartment on Dorchester Road and then decided to leave South Carolina.

According to the report, the suspect tried to grab her as she got into her car but she was able to drive away.

Next, Wilkerson, her kids and a friend arrived at the Walmart Store on Dorchester Road where she told police an unknown man stared at her in the check out line.

According to the report, she headed to North Charleston City Hall and told police she was being followed.

She told police the suspect was her husband and asked for an escort out of town to make sure no one was following her.

An officer escorted Wilkerson and her children along Interstate 26 to the College Park Road ext without incident.