Judge: Mom who drove kids into ocean was insane

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A South Carolina mother was insane when she drove her three children into the ocean and therefore not guilty of child abuse, a Florida judge determined Friday.

Prosecutors, in turn, dropped three attempted murder counts against Ebony Wilkerson.

After ruling that Wilkerson was not guilty by reason of insanity of three counts of child abuse, Circuit Judge Leah Case ordered a hearing next week to determine whether the woman should be involuntarily hospitalized for treatment or released with court supervision. The judge and attorneys said the process was rare.

"This is kind of out of the ordinary, and we've been doing this a long time," Case said.

After the hearing, assistant public defender Craig Dyer said he had been practicing law for 37 years, "and this is my first time" participating in this type of hearing.

The deal between prosecutors and Wilkerson's attorneys was reached this week after a psychologist hired by prosecutors agreed with a defense psychologist that Wilkerson had a psychotic break during the incident.

Wilkerson drove her van into the surf off Daytona Beach in March. Bystanders and officers pulled her and her children from the van.

During next week's hearing, the judge will consider testimony and depositions from psychologists who evaluated Wilkerson in the weeks after her arrest.

Wilkerson told the judge Friday that she would waive her right to a jury trial. She said she was mentally competent to make that decision and wasn't under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When the judge asked her whether she was thinking clearly, Wilkerson said, "Yes, I am."

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Judge: Mom who drove kids into ocean was insane
This booking photo released by the Volusia (Fla.) County Division of Corrections shows Ebony Wilkerson. Wilkerson, accused of driving a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf off Florida, was charged Friday, March 7, 2014, with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse, though she has denied trying to harm anyone, authorities said. (AP Photo/Volusia (Fla.) County Corrections)
In this image made from video and released by Simon Besner, lifeguards rescue children from a minivan that their mother drove into the Atlantic, Tuesday, March 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Fla. Ebony Wilkerson, 31, a pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf 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. Bystanders and officers helped pull Wilkerson and her children, ages 3, 9 and 10, from their minivan. The children were turned over to welfare authorities. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office says Wilkerson was undergoing a mental evaluation. (AP Photo/Simon Besner)
In this image made from video and released by Simon Besner, lifeguards rescue children from a minivan that their mother drove into the Atlantic, Tuesday, March 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Fla. Ebony Wilkerson, 31, a pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf 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. Bystanders and officers helped pull Wilkerson and her children, ages 3, 9 and 10, from their minivan. The children were turned over to welfare authorities. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office says Wilkerson was undergoing a mental evaluation. (AP Photo/Simon Besner)
In this image made from video and released by Simon Besner, lifeguards rescue children from a minivan that their mother drove into the Atlantic, Tuesday, March 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Fla. Ebony Wilkerson, 31, a pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf 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. Bystanders and officers helped pull Wilkerson and her children, ages 3, 9 and 10, from their minivan. The children were turned over to welfare authorities. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office says Wilkerson was undergoing a mental evaluation. (AP Photo/Simon Besner)
Ebony Wilkerson, escorted by Juliane Morris, enters the room for a bond hearing in Judge Leah Case's courtroom in Daytona Beach, Fla., Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Wilkerson, 32, the pregnant South Carolina woman charged with attempted murder after she drove her car into the ocean with her three children inside, will be allowed to receive in-hospital psychiatric care until a doctor says she's fit to return to jail, according to an agreement announced Tuesday. (AP Photo/The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Peter Bauer, Pool)
Ebony Wilkerson listens during a bond hearing in Daytona Beach, Fla., Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Wilkerson, 32, the pregnant South Carolina woman charged with attempted murder after she drove her car into the ocean with her three children inside, will be allowed to receive in-hospital psychiatric care until a doctor says she's fit to return to jail, according to an agreement announced Tuesday. (AP Photo/The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Peter Bauer, Pool)
State Attorney R.J. Larizza, left and public defender Jim Purdy, center, discuss an issue during a bond hearing for Ebony Wilkerson, right, in Judge Leah Case's courtroom in Daytona Beach, Fla., Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Wilkerson, 32, the pregnant South Carolina woman charged with attempted murder after she drove her car into the ocean with her three children inside, will be allowed to receive in-hospital psychiatric care until a doctor says she's fit to return to jail, according to an agreement announced Tuesday. (AP Photo/The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Peter Bauer, Pool)
Ebony Wilkerson enters the room for a bond hearing in Judge Leah Case's courtroom in Daytona Beach, Fla., Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Wilkerson, 32, the pregnant South Carolina woman charged with attempted murder after she drove her car into the ocean with her three children inside, will be allowed to receive in-hospital psychiatric care until a doctor says she's fit to return to jail, according to an agreement announced Tuesday. (AP Photo/The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Peter Bauer, Pool)
In this image made from video and released by Simon Besner, lifeguards rescue children from a minivan that their mother drove into the Atlantic, Tuesday, March 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Fla. Ebony Wilkerson, 31, a pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf 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. Bystanders and officers helped pull Wilkerson and her children, ages 3, 9 and 10, from their minivan. The children were turned over to welfare authorities. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office says Wilkerson was undergoing a mental evaluation. (AP Photo/Simon Besner)
In this image made from video and released by Simon Besner, lifeguards rescue children from a minivan that their mother drove into the Atlantic, Tuesday, March 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Fla. Ebony Wilkerson, 31, a pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf 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. Bystanders and officers helped pull Wilkerson and her children, ages 3, 9 and 10, from their minivan. The children were turned over to welfare authorities. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office says Wilkerson was undergoing a mental evaluation. (AP Photo/Simon Besner)
In this image made from video and released by Simon Besner, lifeguards rescue children from a minivan that their mother drove into the Atlantic, Tuesday, March 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Fla. Ebony Wilkerson, 31, a pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf 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. Bystanders and officers helped pull Wilkerson and her children, ages 3, 9 and 10, from their minivan. The children were turned over to welfare authorities. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office says Wilkerson was undergoing a mental evaluation. (AP Photo/Simon Besner)
In this image made from video and released by Simon Besner, lifeguards rescue children from a minivan that their mother drove into the Atlantic, Tuesday, March 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Fla. Ebony Wilkerson, 31, a pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf 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. Bystanders and officers helped pull Wilkerson and her children, ages 3, 9 and 10, from their minivan. The children were turned over to welfare authorities. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office says Wilkerson was undergoing a mental evaluation. (AP Photo/Simon Besner)
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