Woman Who Drove Kids Into Ocean Reported Rape Days Earlier

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The woman who authorities say drove a minivan into the Atlantic Ocean with her three children inside reported to police three days earlier that her husband raped her in a South Carolina hotel room.

The woman, Ebony Wilkerson, has been hospitalized and undergoing mental evaluation since Tuesday, when she apparently steered the van into the water at Daytona Beach, Fla. Rescuers charged in to rescue the children, who were not seriously hurt.

Authorities in Florida announced Friday they will charge the mother with three counts of attempted murder in the case.

Accounts from the days before the van went into the water reflect a woman in deep distress.

A report from police in Myrtle Beach, S.C., shows that Wilkerson called 911 on Saturday to report that her husband, Lutful Ronjon, held her down and raped her. Police said they interviewed the husband but filed no immediate charges.

“At this point, we’re still investigating,” Capt. David Knipes, a spokesman for Myrtle Beach police, said Friday. He declined to say whether police had talked again to Ronjon or to provide other specifics.

The husband, Ronjon, 31, was arrested in 2005 and charged with domestic battery. Court records reviewed by The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., show that he went through a pretrial service program and the charges were dropped.

Ronjon could not immediately be reached for comment.

Wilkerson said that she was treated at a hospital, then left with the children for Florida. She stopped in North Charleston, S.C., the next day and told police there that her husband had tried to grab her as she packed up the van to leave.

A North Charleston police report says that Wilkerson told them about the alleged rape, and was scared and believed she was being followed. An officer offered to take her to a domestic abuse shelter, but she declined and asked for a police escort to the city limits.

Spencer Pryor, a spokesman for North Charleston police, said Friday that an officer had also told Wilkerson that she could go to a county magistrate if she wanted a protective order.

On Tuesday in Florida, Wilkerson’s sister called 911 to say she was worried. She told the dispatcher that Wilkerson was having a psychotic episode — “talking about Jesus and that there’s demons in my house and that I’m trying to control her.”

Police in Daytona Beach tracked her down, pulled her over and later wrote in a report that Wilkerson appeared to be “suffering from some form of mental illness.” They let her go. Two and a half hours later, the minivan went into the ocean.

The police chief said later that she was lucid, and that the children were not in distress, and that Wilkerson “did not fit the criteria” to be committed under state law.

The children — two girls and a boy, aged 3, 9 and 10 — were placed in state custody after they were rescued from the van, which was bobbing in heavy surf. Wilkerson told North Charleston police that she had a fourth child on the way.