Kids rescued from surf in Daytona Beach: 'Mom tried to kill us' - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Kids rescued from surf in Daytona Beach: 'Mom tried to kill us'

Posted: Updated:

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — After she drove her minivan into the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean, authorities say a pregnant South Carolina woman tried to call off bystanders hustling to rescue her three screaming children from the water that was rushing in through the windows.

Ebony Wilkerson, who was charged with attempted murder Friday, said "everyone was OK" and left the van with her children inside, an affidavit said. The bystanders and beach safety officers, paying no mind to her urgings, pulled the two girls and a boy, ages 3, 9 and 10, through the windows Tuesday on Daytona Beach.

Later, Wilkerson denied trying to hurt her children, telling investigators she was driving too close to the water, "and the waves pulled her in," according to the charging affidavit.

Her children told investigators another story.

"Mom tried to kill us," they told detectives, according to the document. "Mom is crazy."

Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said the 32-year-old Wilkerson of North Charleston has been charged with three counts each of first-degree attempted murder and child abuse. She was in the custody of the sheriff's office after being hospitalized for a mental evaluation since dunking the van into the surf.

The children told authorities they had come to Florida from South Carolina earlier in the week to escape their father. They described a history of violence between their parents, and they said their mother had been "acting crazy and speaking to Jesus" since they had come to stay with Wilkerson's sister in Daytona Beach.

The sister, Jessica Harrell, didn't return a phone call from The Associated Press, but she expressed her concerns about Wilkerson's mental health to a 911 dispatcher only hours before the minivan ended up in the ocean.

The children said that while driving south on the beach, their mother pointed at the ocean, locked the doors, rolled up the electric windows and then jerked the steering wheel, sending the minivan into the waves.

One of the children asked her what she was doing, and she said: "'I am keeping us all safe,'" according to the affidavit. The boy tried to wrestle the steering wheel away from Wilkerson.

"She told them to close their eyes and go to sleep. She was trying to take them to a better place," Johnson said at a news conference.

A child also lowered the windows and the siblings yelled for help, attracting the bystanders.

"I've got to do this," Wilkerson told bystander Stacy Robinson as he attempted to intervene, according to the affidavit.

One of the rescuers, Tim Tesseneer, said Wilkerson's eyes were wide open and she looked "possessed." Wilkerson tried to prevent a beach safety officer from entering the vehicle to rescue the toddler who was the last to be removed from the minivan, Tesseneer told detectives. The children are with the Department of Children and Families.

Harrell told the dispatcher she had tried to take her sister to a hospital the day before the minivan ended up in the surf but Wilkerson had checked herself out. She said Wilkerson had been abused by her husband and that police should check on her.

"She's getting a little bit better, but she's still not all there," Harrell said.

Two days before what happened on the beach, Wilkerson told North Charleston police that she was in a violent altercation with her husband of 14 years at a hotel room in Myrtle Beach and gone to a hospital for treatment, according to an incident report. She also told police that after she packed up the car and kids at their apartment, her husband made a motion as if he was going to grab her, but she got into the car before he could, the report said.

She then went to Wal-Mart to cash in some coins so she'd have money for the trip. She reported that she felt a man was staring at her and followed her at the store and to the North Charleston City Hall where police were called. Officers said they gave her a form for a protective order and she refused being taken to a shelter since she was going to Florida.

Myrtle Beach police say they are investigating what happened at the hotel but no charges were filed. Phone numbers for Wilkerson's husband were disconnected.

Harrell told the dispatcher that Wilkerson was "talking about Jesus and how there are demons in my house and how I'm trying to control her but I'm trying to keep them safe."

Harrell said she had taken Wilkerson's car keys away but her sister had found another set and driven off with the children.

After the call to dispatch, Daytona Beach officers stopped Wilkerson's black Honda Odyssey and she expressed fear that her husband would be coming to Florida to harm her and her children.

The children were sitting quietly, 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," the Daytona Beach police officer said in the report.

___

Associated Press writer Tom Foreman Jr. in Charlotte, N.C., contributed to this report.

  • Birmingham Area NewsMore>>

  • Overnight house fire under investigation

    Overnight house fire under investigation

    Thursday, July 24 2014 4:15 AM EDT2014-07-24 08:15:55 GMT
    Birmingham fire officials are investigating a house fire on English Knoll Lane.More >>
    Birmingham fire officials are investigating a house fire on English Knoll Lane.
    More >>
  • Death investigation launched in McCalla after man finds decomposed body while bush-hogging property

    Death investigation launched in McCalla after man finds decomposed body while bush-hogging property

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:54 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:54:06 GMT
    The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has launched a death investigation after a man discovered a decomposed body while bush-hogging his property in McCalla Wednesday afternoon.More >>
    The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has launched a death investigation after a man discovered a decomposed body while bush-hogging his property in McCalla Wednesday afternoon.More >>
  • Governor considering special session to fund economic development incentives

    Governor considering special session to fund economic development incentives

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:53 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:53:09 GMT
    Alabama Governor Robert Bentley may call a special session in November to change funding for economic incentives. The money could start coming from the education budget.More >>
    Alabama Governor Robert Bentley may call a special session in November to change funding for economic incentives. The money could start coming from the education budget.More >>
  • Anniston - Gadsden Area NewsMore>>

  • Oneonta police need help identifying woman who stole flowers from gravesite (pictures)

    Oneonta police need help identifying woman who stole flowers from gravesite (pictures)

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 12:55 PM EDT2014-07-23 16:55:33 GMT
    Oneonta police have turned to Facebook in trying to identify a woman who apparently stole flowers from a gravesite at a Oakhill Cemetery on Tuesday.More >>
    Oneonta police have turned to Facebook in trying to identify a woman who apparently stole flowers from a gravesite at a Oakhill Cemetery on Tuesday.
    More >>
  • Suspect in Jacksonville shooting from June turns self in

    Suspect in Jacksonville shooting from June turns self in

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 7:06 PM EDT2014-07-22 23:06:38 GMT
    Jacksonville police said the suspect in the June shooting of a Calhoun County man turned himself into police Tuesday afternoon.More >>
    Jacksonville police said the suspect in the June shooting of a Calhoun County man turned himself into police Tuesday afternoon.
    More >>
  • Jacksonville man arrested for child pornography

    Jacksonville man arrested for child pornography

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 7:05 PM EDT2014-07-22 23:05:18 GMT
    William Franklin Harper (Photo: Calhoun County Sheriff's Office)William Franklin Harper (Photo: Calhoun County Sheriff's Office)
    The Alabama Bureau of Investigation’s CyberCrimes Unit arrested a Jacksonville man Tuesday for possession of child pornography.ABI officers served a search warrant at the home of 49-year-old William Franklin Harper. Harper is charged with four counts of possession of child pornography.He is currently in custody at theCalhoun County Jailwith bond setat $100,000 bond.During the search, investigators found methamphetamine. Agents of the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board and the Calhoun Coun...More >>
    The Alabama Bureau of Investigation’s CyberCrimes Unit arrested a Jacksonville man Tuesday for possession of child pornography.ABI officers served a search warrant at the home of 49-year-old William Franklin Harper. Harper is charged with four counts of possession of child pornography.He is currently in custody at theCalhoun County Jailwith bond setat $100,000 bond.During the search, investigators found methamphetamine. Agents of the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board and the Calhoun Coun...More >>
Most Popular
Stories
Videos
loading...
  • Latest StoriesMore>>

  • Overnight house fire under investigation

    Overnight house fire under investigation

    Thursday, July 24 2014 4:15 AM EDT2014-07-24 08:15:55 GMT
    Birmingham fire officials are investigating a house fire on English Knoll Lane.More >>
    Birmingham fire officials are investigating a house fire on English Knoll Lane.
    More >>
  • Julio Jones cleared in time for Falcons camp

    Julio Jones cleared in time for Falcons camp

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 11:59 PM EDT2014-07-24 03:59:36 GMT
    Number '11' will be a welcome sight to fans and teammates at Falcons training camp.Wide receiver Julio Jones has been cleared to take part in practice, coach Mike Smith told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta begins training camp Friday in Flowery Branch, Ga. The former Alabama star injured his foot in Week 5 of last season and missed the rest of the year."He will be limited in terms of his snaps," Smith told the AJC. "Our No. 1 goal is to make sure that we've got everybody as healthy ...More >>
    Number '11' will be a welcome sight to fans and teammates at Falcons training camp.Wide receiver Julio Jones has been cleared to take part in practice, coach Mike Smith told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta begins training camp Friday in Flowery Branch, Ga. The former Alabama star injured his foot in Week 5 of last season and missed the rest of the year."He will be limited in terms of his snaps," Smith told the AJC. "Our No. 1 goal is to make sure that we've got everybody as healthy ...More >>
  • Man found dead from apparent gunshot wound inside Locust Fork home

    Man found dead from apparent gunshot wound inside Locust Fork home

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 10:35 PM EDT2014-07-24 02:35:17 GMT
    BLOUNT COUNTY, Alabama -- A death investigation is underway in Locust Fork after a man was found dead inside a home late Wednesday afternoon.More >>
    BLOUNT COUNTY, Alabama -- A death investigation is underway in Locust Fork after a man was found dead inside a home late Wednesday afternoon.More >>
  • Death investigation launched in McCalla after man finds decomposed body while bush-hogging property

    Death investigation launched in McCalla after man finds decomposed body while bush-hogging property

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:54 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:54:06 GMT
    The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has launched a death investigation after a man discovered a decomposed body while bush-hogging his property in McCalla Wednesday afternoon.More >>
    The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has launched a death investigation after a man discovered a decomposed body while bush-hogging his property in McCalla Wednesday afternoon.More >>
  • Governor considering special session to fund economic development incentives

    Governor considering special session to fund economic development incentives

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:53 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:53:09 GMT
    Alabama Governor Robert Bentley may call a special session in November to change funding for economic incentives. The money could start coming from the education budget.More >>
    Alabama Governor Robert Bentley may call a special session in November to change funding for economic incentives. The money could start coming from the education budget.More >>
  • Barber's artist skills on display

    Barber's artist skills on display

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:46 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:46:30 GMT
    It's called "Brushstrokes Between Cuts." And it's the first major art exhibition by local barber and artist Carter "Pooley" Moorer, Jr. The exhibition features 31 paintings that Moorer created during more than 60 years as a barber at Carter's Barbershop, his families barbershop in Ensley. Moorer's work is on display at The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute now through October 12th.According to his family, Moorer took only one art class when he was a freshman at Western Olin High School, which...More >>
    It's called "Brushstrokes Between Cuts." And it's the first major art exhibition by local barber and artist Carter "Pooley" Moorer, Jr. The exhibition features 31 paintings that Moorer created during more than 60 years as a barber at Carter's Barbershop, his families barbershop in Ensley. Moorer's work is on display at The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute now through October 12th.According to his family, Moorer took only one art class when he was a freshman at Western Olin High School, which...More >>
  • Jefferson Co. District 2 Race contested

    Jefferson Co. District 2 Race contested

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:43 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:43:48 GMT
    The election results may have been confirmed earlier this week, but the race to win Jefferson County's District 2 seat is not finished. ABC 33/40 has learned the election will be challenged. Someone has contested the election results.You may remember, only a small number of votes separated Shelia Smoot and Sandra Little Brown. The tight race was won by the incumbent.Brown tells ABC 33/40 Chairman Richard Mauk, with the Jefferson County Democratic Party was served the contest. We're told it ap...More >>
    The election results may have been confirmed earlier this week, but the race to win Jefferson County's District 2 seat is not finished. ABC 33/40 has learned the election will be challenged. Someone has contested the election results.You may remember, only a small number of votes separated Shelia Smoot and Sandra Little Brown. The tight race was won by the incumbent.Brown tells ABC 33/40 Chairman Richard Mauk, with the Jefferson County Democratic Party was served the contest. We're told it ap...More >>
  • Samford picked to finish third in Southern Conference

    Samford picked to finish third in Southern Conference

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 8:38 PM EDT2014-07-24 00:38:39 GMT
    Coming off it's first trip to the FCS Playoffs, Samford was picked to finish third in the Southern Conference, the highest the program has even been picked in the preseason since it joined the league in 2008.More >>
    Coming off it's first trip to the FCS Playoffs, Samford was picked to finish third in the Southern Conference, the highest the program has even been picked in the preseason since it joined the league in 2008.More >>