Prosecutors have reduced charges against a mother who drove her children into the ocean. On March 4, 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson drove her minivan through Daytona Beach and into the Atlantic Ocean. Her three children, ages 3, 9, and 10, were passengers in the vehicle.
Although witnesses rescued the children and their mother without incident, Wilkerson was arrested and charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder and child abuse.
Public Defender James Purdy asserts that his client never intended to harm herself or her children.
Ebony Wllkerson said she drove her children into the ocean to escape her abusive husband. Wilkerson’s sister, Jessica Harrell, said Lutful Ronjon was physically and mentally abusive. She also said Ronjon threatened her sister’s life on numerous occasions.
As reported by Click Orlando, Harrell tried to help her sister escape. However, Ronjon threatened her life as well:
“(Ronjon) threatened to kill me and my sister if I participated in helping my sister escape his abuse… I have to testify against him on behalf of my sister, and am afraid to [go] to the courthouse.”
Although she has corresponded with the court, Harrell remains in hiding as she fears for her life.
On Tuesday, prosecutors reduced Wilkerson’s charges to three counts of attempted second-degree murder. Attorney Purdy said his client intends to plead not guilty to all charges.
Purdy said he is disappointed that his client is still being charged. However, the reduction in severity is as a positive step:
“I am glad the State recognizes that there was no premeditation involved in this incident. As the discovery process unfolds, I am confident the evidence will show that Ebony Wilkerson never intended to harm her children or herself.”
Volusia County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Gary Davidson said he was comfortable with the state’s decision. In an official statement, Davidson explained that he and his colleagues “have full confidence that the State Attorney’s Office will make appropriate decisions in the charging, prosecution and ultimate resolution of this case.”
Authorities have indicated that Wilkerson suffers from mental health issues. Following her arrest, the pregnant mother of three was placed on suicide watch. She was later transferred to Halifax Health Medical Center after she “hit herself in the stomach.”
The Datona Beach News Journal reports that she is currently receiving mental health and prenatal care at the medical center.
It is unclear exactly why the mother drove her children into the ocean. Although she claims she was trying to flee her husband, witnesses did not report that Ebony Wilkerson was being chased.
[Image via New York Post]