Saturday, June 04, 2005
much ado about nothing indeed
In the end though, the saga of Jennifer Wilbanks is like that of a zillion others like her - they don't know what they want and it complicates everything. The lone originality in her particular story is her creative twist given to it - but that was, in retrospect, a terrible idea she had. Ultimately, all the media hoopla surrounding it is indeed much ado about nothing at all - yet, it can serve as a lesson to some of the ladies out there tempted to do the same...
(Another complete saga, though, that, one wonders, was worth completing at all... *lol* Yes - this is a potshot at Georgie Boy -Lucas- and his masterpiece... again! I can't help myself... *lol*).
Ga. Woman Found, Reportedly Got Cold Feet Apr 30, 8:10 AM (ET) By MARY PEREA
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A Georgia bride-to-be who vanished just days before her wedding turned up in New Mexico and fabricated a tale of abduction before admitting Saturday that she got cold feet and "needed some time alone," police said.
Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, was in police custody more than 1,420 miles from her home on what was supposed to be her wedding day Saturday.
"It turns out that Miss Wilbanks basically felt the pressure of this large wedding and could not handle it," said Randy Belcher, the police chief in Duluth, Ga., the Atlanta suburb where Wilbanks lives with her fiance. He said there would be no criminal charges.
Wilbanks had called her fiance, John Mason, from a pay phone late Friday and told him that she had been kidnapped three days earlier while jogging, authorities said. Her family rejoiced that she was safe, telling reporters that the media coverage apparently got to the kidnappers.
But Wilbanks, who is a nurse, soon recanted, according to police.
Her uncle, Mike Satterfield, thanked people who had helped in the search.
"Jennifer had some issues the family was not aware of. We're looking forward to loving her and talking to her about these issues," he said.
Ray Schultz, chief of police in Albuquerque, said Wilbanks "had become scared and concerned about her impending marriage and decided she needed some time alone." He said she traveled to Las Vegas by bus before going to Albuquerque.
"She's obviously very concerned about the stress that she's been through, the stress that's been placed on her family," he said. "She is very upset."
The wedding was going to be a huge bash. The couple had mailed 600 invitations, and the ceremony was to feature 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen.
Wilbanks, whose disappearance set off a nationwide hunt, was tired and thirsty, but was not complaining of any injuries Saturday, officials said. Her hair, which was long in pictures released by her family, was shoulder-length.
Just hours before Wilbanks called her fiance, police in Duluth said they had no solid leads in the case and began dismantling a search center. Relatives offered a $100,000 reward for information and were planning a prayer vigil.
The hunt for Wilbanks had consumed Duluth, a tight-knit town. Her picture and newspaper articles about her disappearance were on telephone poles and shop windows. Police had also seized three computers from the couple's home.
DULUTH, Ga. (AP) - On what was to be her wedding day, Jennifer Wilbanks wore not a white veil but an orange towel over her head to prevent the media from taking her picture. Instead of being led down the aisle by her father, she was led by police to an airplane that flew the runaway bride home.
Now officials say the 32-year-old woman's cold feet may have gotten her in hot water. On Sunday, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter vowed to look into whether she violated the law by reporting a crime that didn't exist.
Wilbanks initially told authorities she was abducted while jogging but later disclosed she took a cross-country bus trip to Albuquerque, N.M., to avoid her lavish, 600-guest wedding.
Porter said Wilbanks could face a misdemeanor charge of false report of a crime or a felony charge of false statements. The misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to a year in jail; five years in prison is the maximum sentence for the felony.
"If there's criminal responsibility, that's something I have to do something about," Porter said, adding that no decision would be made Sunday. "I think it's really going to depend on the circumstances on how this was done."
Meanwhile Sunday, members of Peachtree Corners Baptist Church, where Mason is a member, said prayers and expressed concern for Wilbanks and her fiance, John Mason, who did not attend services Sunday morning.
The Rev. Bob Horner thanked church members who had helped in the search for Wilbanks and provided support for family members.
"Number one, we are so thankful that Jennifer has been found," Horner told the congregation. "Number two, I want to publicly thank all of you who prayed and you who went to Duluth to be with the family."
An FBI spokesman said Saturday that Wilbanks apparently made a sudden decision to flee her looming wedding and did not realize hundreds of people were looking for her. But he also noted she cut her hair to avoid being recognized.
Porter said he would speak on Monday to police in Albuquerque, where Wilbanks turned up late Friday and called her fiance and 911 to report that she had been kidnapped.
Despite angry calls from some residents, authorities in Albuquerque said they had no plans to charge Wilbanks, though they haven't ruled out the possibility.
"We don't have to charge everybody," said Albuquerque police spokeswoman Trish Ahrensfield. "We have discretion. We are human beings. We have feelings and we are professional at the same time."
By all accounts, authorities in Albuquerque befriended the woman.
Wilbanks boarded her plane wearing a new FBI hat, blazer, polo shirt and pants and carrying a new tote bag and teddy bear, a gift from the aviation police chief. She flew first-class and said she planned to name the bear "Al," for Albuquerque.
"Law enforcement is really making a major move to deal with people in crisis," Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schulz said Sunday. "Miss Wilbanks was definitely a person in crisis."
But the Gwinnett County district attorney noted that vast law-enforcement resources were used to look for the missing bride.
After she disappeared last week without her keys, wallet or diamond ring, more than 100 officers led a search that involved several hundred volunteers, including many wedding guests and members of the bridal party.
Porter said he had no jurisdiction over the woman's initial 911 call in Albuquerque, in which she told an operator she was kidnapped by a man and a woman in their 40s who were driving a blue van. Through sobs, she told the dispatcher they had a small handgun.
But Porter said Wilbanks could be charged for reporting her kidnapping story over the phone to Duluth Police Chief Randy Belcher.
Last year, a Wisconsin college student who faked her own abduction and turned up curled in a fetal position in a marsh was given three years' probation for obstructing police and was ordered to repay police at least $9,000 for their search.
Associated Press writer Anna Macias Aguayo in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this report.
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Georgia's "runaway bride," whose much-publicized disappearance days before her wedding turned out to be just a case of cold feet, was indicted on Wednesday on two charges of falsely claiming she was abducted, authorities said.
Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, vanished from her home in Duluth, near Atlanta, days before her wedding in April, triggering a nationwide search.
She was found a few days later in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wilbanks at first said she had been abducted while jogging and sexually assaulted, but later changed her story, telling police she had fled Georgia because she was scared about her lavish wedding.
Wilbanks would face up to six years in prison if convicted on both the charges, Gwinnett County district attorney Danny Porter, said, announcing the indictment by a grand jury earlier on Wednesday.
"At some point you just can't lie to the police," he said.
Porter said Wilbanks faced one count of making a false statement to a government agency, a felony charge that carries a sentence of up to five years, and one of falsely reporting a crime, a misdemeanor that carries a term of up to one year.
"We believe this is a reasonable next step in this case and we believe the grand jury made the appropriate decision," Porter said.
He said he did not know where Wilbanks was currently, but he had been in touch with her attorney. The next step would be a warrant for Wilbanks' arrest, Porter said, adding he was confident she would turn herself in.
Wilbanks' attorney, Lydia Sartain, has said her client did not commit any crime, but regrets the anguish she put her family and the community through.
The city of Duluth wants Wilbanks to pay it $43,000, which it says the four-day search for the woman cost in police pay and other expenses.
Runaway Bride Pleads No Contest to Felony
Jun 2, 12:16 PM (ET) By DANIEL YEE
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) - With her once-jilted fiance at her side, runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks pleaded no contest Thursday to a felony charge and wept as she was sentenced to probation, community service and a fine.
"I'm truly sorry for my actions and I just want to thank Gwinnett County and the city of Duluth," a crying Wilbanks told the judge as she pleaded to a charge of making a false statement.
She was sentenced to two years of probation and 120 hours of community service. The judge also ordered her to continue mental health treatment and pay the sheriff's office $2,550.
If she successfully completes her probation, the felony will be erased from her record, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said.
Wilbanks, whose disappearance before her wedding in April created a nationwide sensation, was wearing a black outfit and running shoes as she arrived at the Gwinnett County courthouse Thursday to make her plea. Her fiance John Mason, whom she was to have married April 30 in a lavish ceremony, was by her side.
After the judge handed down the sentence, the attorneys approached the bench to discuss the case and Wilbanks sat alone at the defendant's table, hugging herself and sobbing quietly. Mason sat several rows behind her, watching in silence. The two did not share any words or glances as Wilbanks' attorney escorted her out of the courtroom after the hearing.
Wilbanks was indicted last week on charges of making a false statement and making a false police report. She could have faced up to six years in prison and $11,000 in fines if convicted of both charges. The misdemeanor false report charge was dropped as part of her plea deal.
Wilbanks also could also have been ordered to reimburse authorities for the cost of the search, which has been tallied at more than $50,000. She's already agreed to pay part of the tab: On Tuesday, she said she would pay $13,250 to the city of Duluth, Ga., to help offset the overtime costs the city incurred searching for her.
"She's done everything that we would ask of her," Wilbanks' attorney, Lydia Sartain, said Thursday morning before sentencing. "She has accepted responsibility."
Porter called the plea "a good resolution of the matter under all of the facts of the case and taking into consideration Ms. Wilbanks' prior criminal record." Wilbanks had been convicted of shoplifting during the 1990s.
Wilbanks, a nurse, disappeared from her Duluth home on April 26, four days before she was to have been married at a high-profile ceremony with 600 guests and 28 attendants. She took a bus to Las Vegas and then Albuquerque, N.M.
She initially claimed she was abducted and sexually assaulted, but later recanted and said she fled because of unspecified personal issues days before the wedding. The false statement charge under which she was sentenced stemmed from a phone call she made relaying the abduction and assault allegations from New Mexico to Georgia.
Family members say she has been receiving psychiatric treatment at an unspecified facility.
She needd to see a counselor to deal with the stress, or just talk to her fiance about it!