Mother who drove minivan with kids inside into ocean accused husband of assault

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Channel 9 has learned that the woman who drove her minivan into the ocean at Daytona Beach had recently filed a police report alleging her husband had assaulted her.

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

Wilkerson, 32, drove her minivan, with her three children -- ages 3, 9 and 10 -- inside, into the ocean late Tuesday afternoon.

Ocoee resident Stacy Robinson said he heard the children screaming as the car went into the water.

"They were just screaming to the top of their lungs, 'Help, help, help,'" said Robinson.

Robinson, along with lifeguards, raced to pull the children out of the car as it was being battered by waves.

Shortly before Wilkerson drove into the water, her sister, Jessica Harrell, called 911, and told dispatchers Wilkerson was seeing demons and seemed a bit off that day.

"She's trying to drive and I'm trying to stop her," Harrell told dispatchers. "She's talking about Jesus and that there's demons in my house. She's leaving and I don't want to chase after this car," Harrell told dispatchers.

Officers stopped Wilkerson, who is from South Carolina, and spoke with her a couple of hours before she drove into the water, but said they said they did not have cause to detain her. 

Daytona Beach Police Chief Michael Chitwood said the sister didn't give officers any indication Wilkerson would harm herself or her kids.

Chitwood said his department later learned Wilkerson's family tried to get her to voluntarily admit herself to a hospital the day before. He said if his officers had known about the attempt to get her to a hospital it would have been enough for them to take her into custody.

During a news conference Wednesday authorities said Wilkerson, who is pregnant, was already out of the van when lifeguards got to her and that she did not tell them there were children inside the car.

No one was injured in the incident.

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said the children were turned over to the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Wilkerson is still in the hospital.