Doctor: Mom's mental illness linked to pregnancy

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Doctor: Mom's mental illness linked to pregnancy
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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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Pregnancy likely triggered a mental-illness episode for a South Carolina mother who drove her three children into the ocean off Daytona Beach last March, a psychiatrist testified Tuesday at a hearing to determine whether she needs to be forcibly hospitalized.

Dr. Jeffrey Danziger said that 33-year-old Ebony Wilkerson's symptoms disappeared after she gave birth to her fourth child in jail. Wilkerson's illness couldn't be easily categorized because it included elements of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, such as wild swings and rapid speech about religious delusions, the psychiatrist said.

"She had a rapidly fluctuating illness," said Danziger, who evaluated her on four occasions. "Though she had a psychiatric disorder, it didn't neatly fit a category."

Circuit Judge Leah Case ruled last week that Wilkerson was not guilty by reason of insanity to child abuse, and prosecutors dropped attempted murder charges against her. The judge must now determine whether Wilkerson should be forcibly hospitalized for mental health treatment, released with court supervision or released without supervision. Both the judge and Wilkerson's attorneys have said Wilkerson's plea and the subsequent hearing are out of the ordinary.

Wilkerson is prohibited from seeing her children, but Danziger said she has hopes that will change. The three children involved in the ocean incident are in state custody, and her newborn is with her husband.

Wilkerson's mental illness appears to be in remission, and there is nothing in her behavior to indicate that she is dangerous, Danziger said.

"She has done well in the past seven months," the psychiatrist said.

Danziger's testimony was interrupted after Wilkerson's attorney, Julie Morris, fainted at a podium while questioning him. She quickly regained consciousness. Court was in recess while paramedics attended to her.

When court resumed, Morris was absent from the courtroom, though Wilkerson's other attorneys were present. The judge said the defense would finish presenting its case Wednesday morning.


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