Lakleland Police have identified the woman who drove her two young sons into Lake Wire early Friday morning, killing all three of them.

Police say evidence suggests that 35-year-old Ortilla Zamora “intentionally drove her vehicle into Lake Wire” at about 5:30 a.m. Dec. 30.

“During the investigation, detectives learned from family members that she had possibly been experiencing mental health issues days prior to the event,” LPD spokesperson Robin Tillett wrote in a media release.

Tillett said Zamora is from the Wauchula area in Hardee County and it is unknown why she was in Lakeland.  Social media posts that her mother lives here were unfounded, Tillett told LkldNow.

It is unknown if her sons, ages 4 and 9, were alive when she drove into the lake.  Autopsies were conducted, but additional testing, including toxicology exams, will continue and could take several months to be returned by a state lab.

Kim Seaboldt told Tampa’s ABC Action News she witnessed the incident as she was driving south on Sikes Boulevard to go to work. She said Zamora’s car, which was in front of her, made a U-turn at Lake Wire Drive and started heading north on Sikes but then made a “deliberate” right turn into the lake.

The car had to jump a curb and the sidewalk, and steer between a palm tree and a cypress tree. Straight ahead, in the middle of the lake, was a lighted Christmas tree that is placed there every year.

Seaboldt said she couldn’t believe what she saw but called 911 because she’s not a strong swimmer.

A responding officer located the car about 15 feet from the shoreline.

Members of the Lakeland Fire Department and the LPD dive team found Zamora in the submerged car. The driver’s side window was down. After the car was removed from the lake, the bodies of the two boys were also found.

LPD did not release the boys’ names on Thursday and said this is an ongoing investigation.

Authorities remind those struggling with mental health issues to call 988, the national mental health hotline.

SEND FEEDBACK, corrections or news tips: newstips@lkldnow.com

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Kimberly C. Moore

Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to LkldNow in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at kimberly@lkldnow.com or 863-272-9250.

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