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Attempted Murder Charges to Be Dropped for Mom Who Drove Kids Into Ocean

Bystanders charged into the surf to save the three children after the minivan went into the water.
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Prosecutors plan to drop charges of attempted murder against the South Carolina woman who drove a minivan into the Atlantic Ocean with her three children inside.

The mother, Ebony Wilkerson, will instead plead not guilty by reason of insanity to three counts of aggravated child abuse, said Ludi Lelis, a court spokeswoman in Daytona Beach, Florida.

On March 4, Wilkerson locked the doors of the minivan, rolled up the windows and told the children to close their eyes and go to sleep, then steered into the Daytona surf, according to investigators.

Bystanders charged into the water and freed the children, ages 10, 9 and 3, from the bobbing minivan. Investigators said the 10-year-old told them Wilkerson took them to the beach “so we could die.”

The defense and prosecution reviewed doctor’s reports and interviews and agreed that Wilkerson had suffered a psychotic episode, Lelis said. A judge still wants to hear from Wilkerson’s doctors on Friday before signing off on the agreement and ruling later on further treatment, she said.

Wilkerson, 33, was released from jail in May on the condition that she have no contact with the three children, who are in state custody. A judge has since allowed her to write letters, which must be reviewed by a case manager.

Wilkerson gave birth to a baby boy in jail, Lelis said. The baby is with his father, she said. Wilkerson has been undergoing mental health treatment and has had “absolutely no problems since she’s given birth,” Craig Dyer, her court-appointed lawyer, said in an interview.


— Erin McClam