Volusia Sheriff Ben Johnson said Daytona Beach Police did not have any grounds to take the woman into custody under the Baker Act.


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The pregnant woman who reportedly drove a van carrying her and her three children into the ocean on Daytona Beach on Tuesday had contact with police just hours before the incident, before which she allegedly mentioned demons.

Daytona Beach Police Department officers initially interviewed the woman, identified as 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson of Cross, South Carolina.

Wilkerson's sister called 911 to report that Wilkerson was allegedly mentioning demons.

Officers found that Wilkerson did not make any statements that she was suicidal or homicidal, according to Volusia County Sheriff Ben F. Johnson said Wednesday. If she had, Johnson said would have been taken into custody under the Baker Act.

Johnson said Wilkerson told officers she was heading to an abuse shelter, so they could not take her into custody. Initially, Wilkerson did not want to tell the officers where she was going for fear her ex would find out. Two hours later, the Wilkerson's van was in the ocean.

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office is still, interviewing the children, and no charges have been filed against Wilkerson at this time.

"One thing is we'll look at 'was there intent?' We have to determine that," Johnson said. "We'll also be in contact and we are in contact with the State Attorney's Office. They are involved with this. We want to make sure whether we have criminal intent involved in this. Could this be some kind of medical crisis? We have to look into all of those things to determine and make sure that we're going in the right direction."

Claude Bouchard of Quebec was on the beach just having fun on Daytona Beach when he said he heard lifeguard sirens and then saw the van alongside the water. He got out his phone and began shooting video of what he saw.

"I saw a car beside the water and she was running, she was running, and then just in front of us she stopped, and then she goes in the water," Bouchard said.

Reporter: "She turned straight in?"

Bouchard: "Maybe not straight in, maybe the waves swallowed her."

Reporter: "Do you think she purposely drove in there?"

Bouchard: "No I don't think so, I don't know. I thought at the time it was kids fooling around with cars or something like that."

Bouchard said he saw suitcases in the water. But he had no idea kids were in the van and could not believe what he was seeing.

"I said 'maybe she is confused or the people inside were confused.' I don't know," he said.

Michael Bowk from Washington DC saw everything from the second-floor balcony of the Rodeway Inn where he was visiting with family and friends.

"She was a little bit in the water, and people were chasing her. She got out of the water, regained control, then turned right back in for it and that is when panic struck and they all started chasing out there to get the kids. And it was just unreal," Bowk said. "In our minds, there was no way it was just accidental. We saw it point blank, she turned back into the ocean and we could not understand why."

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Wilkerson's family released the following statement to WESH Thursday afternoon:

As a follow up to the news reports of the woman who drove her car into the ocean off Daytona Beach, the three minor children of Ebony Wilkerson were sheltered after court review on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 and are now under judicial supervision.

The mother came to Volusia County to seek the safety of family after fleeing South Carolina to get away from a domestic violence situation. At least two incidents were recently reported to Myrtle Beach and North Charleston law enforcement, which gave rise to her seeking family support here in Daytona Beach. The mother is receiving care for her multiple health issues and no further information on her status is available at this time.

While the family is seeking help from several community resources to address the multiple issues involved in this case, they would strongly prefer not to make any further media contact until things settle down for the mother and the children.

The family wishes to thank the brave men who risked their lives to save the mother and the children, as well as those in the community, who have offered their help during this difficult time.

They are asking for your prayers as they sort out the issues involved in this matter. It is their hope that their privacy is respected to allow the healing process to begin. Many of these concerns will be addressed as part of future court proceedings and the media will be privy to those matters at that time.

Ebony Wilkerson Report

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