Sunday, January 21, 2018

Driver of minivan spoke of demons

DAYTONA BEACH — A pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean off Florida had talked about demons before leaving the house, according to her sister who worriedly called police, officials said during a news conference Wednesday.

After the call to dispatch Tuesday, Daytona Beach police officers stopped 31-year-old Ebony Wilkerson's black Honda Odyssey and she expressed fear that her husband would be coming to Florida to harm her and her children, said Police Chief Mike Chitwood.

"When we spoke with her she was lucid," Chitwood said. "The children were in the back seat, they were buckled in and were not in distress. Although the sergeant said she looked like she had some mental illness, she did not fit the criteria for going into custody under the Baker Act."

The Florida Mental Health Act, commonly known as the Baker Act, allows authorities to involuntarily take people into custody if they seem to be a threat to themselves.

Two hours after the police stop, Wilkerson drove into the ocean. Bystanders and officers helped pull her and her children — ages 3, 9 and 10 — from their minivan as it was almost submerged.

Ebony Wilkerson's sister told police she was concerned about her sister's mental state, Chitwood said.

"Her sister had called dispatch and told them that she (Wilkerson) had been talking about demons that day before she left the house," Chitwood said.

Chitwood said Wilkerson went to Halifax Health Medical Center on Monday to voluntarily check herself but then decided against it and walked out.

The children were turned over to welfare authorities. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said Wilkerson was undergoing a mental evaluation. Sheriff Ben Johnson said it's too early to say whether Wilkerson will face criminal charges.

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