Report: Judge will decide children's fate after mom drives van into ocean

DAYTONA BEACH, SC (WCSC) - A judge is expected to decide whether the children of Ebony Wilkerson will remain in state custody after authorities say Wilkerson drove her van into the ocean with her three children inside, according to WKMG.

A report by WKMG states Wilkerson, 32, went before a judge on Monday in a dependency hearing involving the custody of her kids.

James Purdy, Wilkerson's public defender, told WKMG that a judge will decide if Wilkerson's children will stay in state custody, be placed in foster care or go to stay with relatives.

A new police report states the first thing Wilkerson said after driving the minivan into the ocean was that she was abused by her husband, according to a report from the Associate Press. The report released on Monday states a Daytona Beach safety officer asked Wilkerson if she was injured after she drove the van into the ocean. Wilkerson then responded with the abuse allegation.

On Saturday, a $1.2 million bond was set for Wilkerson who was arrested on Friday.

A Volusia County judge set the bond for 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson of Cross on Saturday. Wilkerson is being held on a $300,000 bond for each count of attempted first-degree murder and $100,000 for each count of child abuse.

Officials with the Volusia County Sheriff's Office say Wilkerson was charged with three counts of first-degree attempted murder and three counts of child abuse.

According to Sheriff Ben Johnson, Wilkerson tried to intentionally kill her three kids. Johnson said during a Friday afternoon press conference that Wilkerson's children told authorities their mother was trying to kill them.

VCSO officers say they responded to the incident Tuesday afternoon and teamed up with several beachgoers to rescue the children inside the van consisting of a 3-year-old girl, 9-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl.

Investigators say Wilkerson ignored the children's pleas for help, insisting that she was taking them to a "safer place." According to authorities, the oldest child grabbed the steering wheel and unsuccessfully tried to steer the vehicle away from the water.

During an interview with a sheriff's investigator, a witness who helped with the rescue reported seeing a child on Wilkerson's lap. According to investigators, Wilkerson and the child were fighting for control of the steering wheel.

Investigators say by the time the van stopped, the ocean water was rushing into the minivan and the vehicle was quickly filling up. A report by the sheriff's office states Wilkerson then exited the minivan and left her children inside the vehicle.

The two older children were pulled to safety first and then, after they reported that their younger sister was still in the vehicle,  the toddler was extracted through the minivan's rear hatch.

According to a witness, during the rescue one of the beach safety officers had to fend off Wilkerson, who was grabbing at the officer and trying to stop him from entering the vehicle.

Wilkerson was arrested at 11:05 a.m. Friday after being released from Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach where she had been taken on Tuesday for a mental health evaluation.

Copyright 2014 WCSC. All rights reserved. WKMG contributed to this report.