Pregnant mom who drove van of kids into ocean accused punching self in stomach

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - A pregnant mother accused of trying to kill her three children by driving her minivan into the ocean in Daytona Beach earlier this month is accused of punching herself in the stomach while jailed, Channe; 9 has learned.

The details came out Monday during a bond hearing for Ebony Wilkerson, 32, who is charged with attempted first-degree murder and child abuse and being held on $1.2 million bond.

In court, Wilkerson's attorney requested her client be kept in a psychiatric ward. A doctor who testified Monday said he believes Wilkerson "can be helped," but the judge did not rule on the request.

The hearing has been continued until March 25.

An OB/GYN testified Monday that Wilkerson is 28 weeks pregnant and that she should be going to weekly checkups. The OB/GYN testified that Wilkerson's pregnancy is not low-risk, which requires her to be seen more regularly than someone with a normal pregnancy.

That doctor also suggested Wilkerson be held at Halifax Hospital for regular treatment during her pregnancy.

During the hearing, it was revealed that Wilkerson allegedly punched herself in the stomach, which resulted in her being sent to a psychiatric hospital as a result of the Baker Act.

The state has since said Wilkerson must be in the sight of corrections officers at all times.

Video shot by beachgoers shows Wilkerson and her minivan full of children -- ages 3, 9 and 10 -- in the rough ocean surf.

In the court house lobby family members refused to comment on questions from reporters, but Wilkerson's public defender said he will try to have Wilkerson's bond lowered.

The children told police their mother locked the doors of the van, put up the windows and told them to "close their eyes and go to sleep," authorities said.

One of the children told authorities Wilkerson drove into the surf, saying she was doing it to “keep all of us safe.”

The oldest child grabbed the steering wheel and unsuccessfully tried to steer the vehicle away from the water, authorities said.

One of the children pushed the power button to lower the windows and the children started screaming for help.

By the time the vehicle stopped, witnesses said the ocean water was rushing into the minivan and the vehicle was quickly filling up.

When lifeguards and beachgoers ran to the van to help, Wilkerson told them everything was OK, authorities said, but she did not mention that her children were still in the car.

Lifeguards and good Samaritans, however, heard the children screaming that their mother was trying to kill them and were able to safely rescue them.

No one was injured in the incident.