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Bail reduced for mother who drove kids into ocean off Florida

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - Bail was reduced to $90,000 on Thursday for a South Carolina mother who drove a minivan carrying her three children into the ocean off a Florida beach, an official said.

Ebony Wilkerson, 33, remains in the Volusia County Jail in Daytona Beach, Florida, on charges of attempted murder and child abuse for each of the children.

Wilkerson previously had bond set at $1.2 million, and has spent most of her incarceration time in a hospital for mental health and pre-natal treatment.

Wilkerson gave birth about 10 days ago and the infant was turned over to its father, according to Luis Bustamante, a spokesman for the Volusia County state attorney's office.

In March, Wilkerson was caught on videotape driving her minivan into the surf while her three other children screamed for help. The video showed lifeguards and bystanders at Daytona Beach frantically pulling the children out of the van as it bobbed in the waves.

Wilkerson got herself out of the minivan and tried to fight off beach safety officers who were trying to rescue the children, then aged 10, 9, and 3.

After the two oldest children were pulled out of the van, it was they, not their mother, who told rescuers about the toddler still inside, according to a sheriff's report.

The 10-year-old girl, who witnesses said fought for control of the van, told them her mother was trying to kill them, investigators said.

Wilkerson, her father and two oldest children told investigators she brought her children to Florida to get away from an abusive marriage.

The day before the incident, Wilkerson, at her sister's request, was evaluated by police, who determined she did not qualify for being involuntary committed because of mental health issues.

Wilkerson's sister took her to the hospital anyway, but Wilkerson left against the advice of medical personnel, according to the arrest affidavit.

The children told investigators their mother began acting "crazy" when they arrived in Florida.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Gunna Dickson)