DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -
A pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf off Florida is being charged with three counts of attempted murder and three counts of aggravated child abuse.
Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said Friday that 31-year-old Ebony Wilkerson was charged after being released from the hospital early Friday. She is now in jail.
According to investigators, the children said their mother told them to pretend like they were going to sleep and that she would take them to a better place. The oldest child also says he tried to wrestle the steering wheel away from his mother as she drove their car into the water.
Sheriff Johnson said that Wilkerson told investigators she was actually trying to drive out of the surf, not into it. She denies trying to kill her children. But Sheriff Johnson says based on the witness reports and the testimonies of the children, investigators believe she was trying to kill her kids.
"...One of the beach officers was trying to get in the window and she tried to prohibit him from getting into the window," Sheriff Johnson explained at Friday's press conference. He also noted that she had all the windows and doors locked when she went into the water.
Bystanders and officers helped pull Wilkerson and her children from their minivan as it was almost submerged on Tuesday on Daytona Beach. The children are 3, 9 and 10.
The children, who's names will not be released due to the child abuse charges, are in state custody. Their father has been contacted and he told investigators he would come on Thursday. As of Friday, the father had not been in contact with investigators.
Wilkerson is in police custody at a local jail and has her first court appearance Saturday morning at 8:30.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)