ORLANDO, Fla. —
When she was driving into the ocean, one of the children asked her what she was doing, and she said: “‘I am keeping us all safe,”’ according to the affidavit. The boy tried to wrestle the steering wheel away from Wilkerson.
“She told them to close their eyes and go to sleep. She was trying to take them to a better place,” Johnson said at a news conference.
A child also lowered the windows and the siblings yelled for help, attracting the bystanders.
“I’ve got to do this,” Wilkerson told bystander Stacy Robinson as he attempted to intervene, according to the affidavit.
One of the rescuers, Tim Tesseneer, said Wilkerson’s eyes were wide open and she looked “possessed.” Wilkerson tried to prevent a beach safety officer from entering the vehicle to rescue the toddler who was the last to be removed from the minivan, Tesseneer told detectives. The children are with the Department of Children and Families.
Two days before what happened on the beach, Wilkerson told North Charleston police that she was in a violent fight with her husband of 14 years at a hotel room in Myrtle Beach and had gone to a hospital for treatment, according to an incident report. She also told police that after she packed up the car and kids at their apartment, her husband made a motion as if he was going to grab her, but she got into the car before he could, the report said.
She then went to Wal-Mart to cash in some coins so she’d have money for the trip. She reported that she felt a man was staring at her and followed her at the store and to the North Charleston City Hall where police were called. Officers said they gave her a form for a protective order. She refused being taken to a shelter since she was going to Florida.