DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) – A South Carolina mother who drove her three children into the ocean off Daytona Beach should be involuntarily hospitalized for mental health treatment, a Florida judge ruled Tuesday.
Ebony Wilkerson, 33, is incompetent and in need of further psychiatric help, Circuit Judge Leah Case said while reading her decision in a Daytona Beach courtroom.
Wilkerson showed no emotion as the decision was read. Neither her attorneys nor prosecutors commented on the decision after the hearing.
The three children involved in the incident are in state custody, and Wilkerson has been denied permission to see them. She gave birth to a son after her arrest, and her husband took custody of the child.
“This is a highly emotional situation for all involved,” Case said.
Even though Wilkerson had shown no psychotic symptoms in the past seven months, she could be a threat to herself or others based, in part, on the seriousness of her past psychotic episodes, the judge said.
Her ruling followed two days of testimony last week from doctors and Wilkerson. The judge previously ruled Wilkerson was not guilty by reason of insanity on charges of child abuse, and prosecutors dropped attempted murder charges.
Her attorneys argued Wilkerson had made progress and needed only outpatient care.
But the judge said Wilkerson’s previous hospitalizations after psychotic episodes made it necessary for her to be committed. Case said she will ask for medical reports from the state hospital during the next six months, and she will use those to help her determine when Wilkerson can be released.