Private dependency hearing held in Daytona for mom accused of driving kids into ocean



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - A pregnant woman accused of trying to kill her three children by driving her minivan into the ocean appeared in court Monday for a dependency hearing, but little information was released to the public.

Ebony Wilkerson is jailed on a $1.2 million bond after being charged with attempted first-degree murder and child abuse.

Video shot by beachgoers last week shows Wilkerson and her minivan full of children -- ages 3, 9 and 10 -- in the rough ocean surf at Daytona beach Tuesday.

Volusia County Sheriff's investigators said Wilkerson locked the doors of the van, put up the windows and told her three frightened children to "close their eyes and go to sleep," and then drove into the ocean.

Monday's hearing was a dependency hearing to determine what will happen to Wilkerson's children.  It was closed to the public and lasted nearly four hours. 

When the hearing wrapped up, little information was released.

"Unfortunately, the court has issued an order saying we cannot discuss any matters with any third parties at this time," said the attorney for Wilkerson's husband.

No date has been set yet for the bond hearing, but Wilkerson's attorney was trying to get the request filed Monday.

Last week, authorities said one of the children told them Wilkerson drove into the surf, saying she was doing it to “keep all of us safe.”

"She tried to stop someone from going into the vehicle. That's one of the reasons you have a premeditated first-degree murder," said Johnson.

The oldest child grabbed the steering wheel and unsuccessfully tried to steer the vehicle away from the water, authorities said.

"It's a very disappointing thing because you are supposed to protect your children," Johnson said.

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

One of the children pushed the power button to lower the windows and the children started screaming for help.

By the time the vehicle stopped, witnesses said the ocean water was rushing into the minivan and the vehicle was quickly filling up.

When lifeguards and beachgoers ran to the van to help, Wilkerson told them everything was OK, authorities said, but she did not mention that her children were still in the car.

Beachgoers and lifeguards were able to pull the children from the vehicle and to safety.

Officials said on the same day Wilkerson drove her van into the water her sister had called 911 because Wilkerson talked about demons she heard in her head.

Channel 9 learned that Wilkerson had recently filed a police report alleging her husband, Lutful Ronjon, had assaulted her.

Authorities in Myrtle Beach, S.C., said Wilkerson filed the report March 1, saying her husband assaulted her while they were vacationing there.

Lutful’s lawyer sent WFTV a statement saying, “The domestic violence allegations concerning Mr. Ronjon were baseless and are the result of extreme mental illness.”

A judge set Wilkerson's bond at $1.2 million on Saturday.

“That is too much. That doesn’t make sense,” she told the judge.

As she was taken back to jail she was heard saying, "It doesn’t make sense," over and over again.

Her attorney said he will try to have the bond amount reduced.

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