Woman who drove van into ocean in Florida to enter insanity plea: report

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2014 8:26 PM

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors will drop attempted murder charges against a South Carolina mother who drove her children into the Atlantic Ocean in Daytona Beach, Florida, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

The attorney for Ebony Wilkerson, 33, said the state’s own doctor agreed with the defense that she suffered a mental break in March when she turned her minivan into the surf and then tried to fight off rescuers who succeeded in saving her three children, according to a report posed on the website of the Daytona-Beach News Journal.

Wilkerson will plead not guilty by reason of insanity to three charges of felony child abuse, assistant public defender Craig Dyer said in court, according to the newspaper. Dyer also said Wilkerson could be released or sent to a state psychiatric hospital.

Dyer, in an interview in September with Reuters, blamed Wilkerson’s behavior on low blood sugar which was tested by a first responder within 10 minutes after the incident. Wilkerson was 27 weeks pregnant which could have affected her sugar levels, he said.

Neither Dyer nor a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office could be reached for comment. The newspaper reported Wilkerson left a court hearing smiling but refused to comment.

The incident received widespread attention in part because it was caught on videotape by a beachgoer. The video showed Wilkerson steering down Daytona's hard-packed sand and turning left into the ocean while the children, then ages 10, 9 and 3, screamed for help.

Dyer previously said witnesses noted Wilkerson wandering around, staring off into space and unresponsive to questions. Soon after her arrest, Wilkerson was hospitalized for mental health treatment and prenatal care.

Wilkerson's baby was born while she was in jail and taken into state custody.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Eric Walsh)