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32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson has been charged with attempted murder and child abuse after she drove a minivan containing her three children into the ocean surf off Florida last week, News One reports. Eyewitnesses say that the children, who are ages 3, 9 and 10, were screaming to bystanders that Wilkerson was trying to kill them.

“She told them to close their eyes and go to sleep. She was trying to take them to a better place,” said Volusia County Sheriff, Ben Johnson.

Wilkerson, who is currently pregnant, denied trying to harm her children, but witnesses say that she attempted to keep bystanders from rescuing them by locking the minivan’s doors and windows. One witness even said that the children tried to wrestle the wheel from her. As water began to seep into the minivan, Wilkerson reportedly exited the vehicle, leaving her screaming children inside.

Following the incident, Wilkerson was hospitalized to undergo a mental evaluation and was later taken into police custody. Her children have been placed with the Department of Children and Families. The expectant mother has since been charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder.

“You’re supposed to protect your children at all costs,” Sheriff Johnson said at a press conference. “You’re not supposed to try to kill your children.”

Prior to the incident, Wilkerson’s sister frantically called the police stating that her sister had spoken about demons. After receiving the call, officers stopped Wilkerson, who was en route in her Black Odyssey with her children in the back seat. While speaking to the officer, she discussed fears that her husband would be coming to Florida to hurt her and her children.

“It was clear during my conversation that Wilkerson was suffering from some form of mental illness, but she was lucid and did not provide any signs that she met Baker Act requirements,” the officer wrote in a police report.

Family members say that Wilkerson was in fact, involved in an abusive relationship and that she fled to Florida to escape her husband. We’re glad the kids are okay. Hopefully Wilkerson will get the help she needs.

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