Politics Runaway Bride

Should Jennifer Wilbanks face charges for pretending to be abducted?

  • Yes, she cost police and taxpayers time and money.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Yes, but only if she planned her disappearance in advance.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • No, she was obviously mentally unbalanced at the time.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    0
For those of you who haven't heard a woman in Georgia went missing a few days before her wedding. She turned up in New Mexico claiming she was kidnapped, but later admitted she just got cold feet. What do you think should be done about it?

Charges not ruled out for runaway bride
Source contradicts account of spontaneous cross-country trip
Sunday, May 1, 2005 Posted: 10:14 PM EDT (0214 GMT)

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- A suburban Atlanta prosecutor said Sunday he would be less likely to bring charges against runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks if authorities determine she left spontaneously rather than planning her disappearance.

"If she just freaked out and split, I'd be less inclined to hold her criminally responsible than if it were a deceptive plan all along," Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter told CNN.

But a source briefed on the status of the investigation said Wilbanks had bought her cross-country bus ticket several days before she disappeared, and had also made advance arrangements for a ride to the bus station.

That account clashes with what the FBI said the 32-year-old medical assistant told investigators after she surfaced late Friday in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Wilbanks was scheduled to get married Saturday in front of 600 guests. She told investigators in Albuquerque that she embarked on her trip without a plan, leaving on "the spur of the moment" with $140-$150, FBI spokesman Bill Elwell said Saturday.

The stress of the wedding had gotten to her, and after the marathon runner went jogging Tuesday evening near her house in Duluth, Georgia, she took a taxi to a Greyhound bus station, where she boarded a bus to Las Vegas, Nevada, Elwell said.

"She admitted she did cut her hair on her own," he said. "She did not want anyone to recognize her. She had some idea people were looking for her."

A one-way bus ticket to Las Vegas from the Atlanta area costs about $170 -- more than investigators said she told them she was carrying at the time. The source briefed on the investigation said Wilbanks cut her hair Tuesday.

After a night in Las Vegas, she befriended a Hispanic man and a white woman -- Wilbanks told investigators -- and the three took a bus to Albuquerque.

Police in New Mexico and Georgia said no criminal charges were pending, but Porter said Saturday that no decisions would be made before Monday.

Last year, a Wisconsin college student who faked her abduction was sentenced to probation and ordered to reimburse police. (Full story)

Wilbanks had been scheduled to marry John Mason, 32, in a swank ceremony with 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen.

She returned to Atlanta late Saturday, handing a statement for reporters to a flight attendant shortly before landing. (Full story)

"She has spoken to her fiance," the statement read. "He cannot wait to see her. She says the wedding is not called off, just postponed."

Wilbanks wore a brightly colored fabric over her head to hide her face as she exited the aircraft.

Wilbanks initially told police in New Mexico she had been kidnapped, but she told them after questioning that she had fled voluntarily because she "needed some time alone" before the wedding, police said.

Police located Wilbanks by tracing a telephone call she made to Mason to a convenience store.

Wilbanks also made an emergency call to Albuquerque police. During that call, an apparently upset Wilbanks reported she had been kidnapped.

But it took only a few hours of questioning for authorities to learn that Wilbanks left on her own.

Duluth residents, including some of the 150 volunteers who had helped search for Wilbanks, had a mixed reaction to her return.

"We were all disappointed, maybe a little embarrassed," said the Rev. Alan Jones, who was to have performed the wedding. (More hometown reaction)

Sunday morning, a near-capacity crowd packed into Riverbend Baptist Church in Gainesville, Georgia -- home of Wilbanks' mother and stepfather -- and heard the Biblical parable of the prodigal son from interim Pastor Ken Allen.

When the story ended, the congregation of about 400 burst into applause.
 

Jamison

Cadet
She most definitely should face charges!

What she did was horrible, and from what it looks like pre-meditated. It appears she used an assume name and bought a bus ticket more than a week before she disappeared.

Not only that but she lied about being kidnapped, which by itself is against the law. I heard her 911 tape today and it was disgusting how she was carrying on about being abducted.

Investigators also found a clump of her hair on the path that she was jogging on. How did this happen? She cut her own hair and planted it there.

It's insane, and she obviously has issues that need to be resolved, as the family pointed out.

She should be charged and should be forced to pay back every cent that was spent looking for her.


Sorry, but this story really ticked me off. She got so much news attention, when that attention could've been used to cover people who were really kidnapped. At this time there are over 22,000 women over the age of 18 who are missing in this country, and yet we don't devote days of news coverage to them.
 

noggi16

Cadet
Do you not have a criminal offence of "wasting police time" that sounds appropriate but it may be a little harsh to judge she obviously was scared of marriage enough to do what she did. There must be more to the story.
 

Jamison

Cadet
noggi16 said:
Do you not have a criminal offence of "wasting police time" that sounds appropriate but it may be a little harsh to judge she obviously was scared of marriage enough to do what she did. There must be more to the story.
[post="1323725"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]​


Just because there may be more to the story doesn't make it anymore right! She lied about being abducted, planted evidence to make it look like she was abducted, staged a phony 911 call, all while thousands of dollars and hundreds of people were searching for her.

To do nothing would be ridiculous.

People get 'cold feet' all the time...but they don't pull something like this.
 

noggi16

Cadet
Does that not indicate there is something more at work here? Surely the enormity of her acts indicates this is more than cold feet.
 

Jamison

Cadet
noggi16 said:
Does that not indicate there is something more at work here? Surely the enormity of her acts indicates this is more than cold feet.
[post="1323912"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]​


She has stated it was just cold feet...and we may never know otherwise.

But she should not be excused for her actions...she's a grown women and should have to pay the conseqences for what she has done.
 
Yeah, she said she was having doubts about her 600 guest wedding, which obviously sounds stressful, but that doesn't mean she had to fake her own kidnapping and make her entire family and town worry about her. It was a huge waste of the police's time and personnel.
 

Jamison

Cadet
Runaway bride's story perplexes authorities
'She didn't feel like she really had done anything wrong'



DULUTH, Georgia (CNN) -- While authorities pondered whether to charge her with a crime, runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks stopped short of a full apology when she met with state investigators Monday, an agent said.

Wilbanks cried when she met with them, said Carter Brank, an assistant special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

"She was somewhat remorseful for what she had done. She didn't come right out and apologize," Brank said. "She didn't feel like she really had done anything wrong. But she did -- in her way -- make somewhat of an apology."

Wilbanks recounted how she cut her hair to disguise her appearance before she caught a bus heading west to escape her wedding, he said.

Authorities said they believe a crime occurred when Wilbanks, a 32-year-old medical assistant from the Atlanta suburb of Duluth, reported she had been abducted by two people and driven away in a van, but they have yet to determine if they will prosecute.

She could face a charge of making a false police report, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail, or making false statements to authorities -- a felony that carries a maximum of five years' imprisonment.

"I guess the thing that doesn't make sense to me ... is this idea that she said I didn't really think anybody would look for me or I didn't think the police would look for me," Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said Tuesday morning. "It flies in the face of common sense."

Porter said he was still looking at the facts before deciding how to proceed with the case.

The city of Duluth may also take civil action to recoup about $40,000 to $60,000 from Wilbanks for costs incurred in her hometown's search for her, Police Chief Randy Belcher said at a Monday evening news briefing.

Wilbanks's attorney, Edward L. Hartness, said neither he nor his client had any comment. She "needs time to heal with her family and time to heal with her fiance," Hartness said.

Wilbanks' fiance, John Mason, 32, told CNN his "only concern now is to get Jennifer well."

According to The Associated Press, Mason told a Fox TV interviewer he had given Wilbanks back the engagement ring she left at the house before she disappeared for four days. The couple still planned to marry, Mason told the interviewer.

"My commitment before God to her was the day I bought that ring and put it on her finger, and I'm not backing down from that," Mason told Fox.

Wilbanks, who had been scheduled to get married last Saturday in front of 600 guests and 28 attendants, disappeared last Tuesday evening, prompting three days of searching.

On Friday, she called Mason from a pay phone in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and said two people had abducted her, then retracted her story during questioning by the FBI and police. Albuquerque police said they will not file charges.

Returning to Atlanta late Saturday, Wilbanks handed a statement for reporters to a flight attendant shortly before landing. (Full story)

Flooded with e-mails
Porter said Monday he was not persuaded Wilbanks had come clean yet.

"There's something about the statement she gave today that doesn't ring completely true and, to tell you the truth, I think that her absorption with herself is so great that she just really doesn't understand what the consequences of what she did are," Porter said.

He would not say whether he plans to file charges.

Duluth residents, including some of the 150 volunteers who had helped search for Wilbanks, had a mixed reaction to her return. (More hometown reaction)

Duluth Mayor Shirley Lasseter said the cost of the search was more than $60,000.

Last year, a Wisconsin college student who faked her abduction was sentenced to probation and ordered to reimburse police. (Full story)

Timeline of case
At Monday evening's briefing, Belcher gave an extensive timeline of the case.

He said Wilbanks purchased a Greyhound bus ticket from Atlanta to Austin, Texas, on April 19.

Belcher said she called a taxi from a gas station April 26 before she went on her run, telling the taxi to pick her up at the Duluth library.

Authorities said they believe that before she hopped into the cab she cut her hair with scissors and left a clump of it near the library -- evidence found during the search for her.

She then took the cab to the main Greyhound station in Atlanta and boarded a bus. She got off in Dallas, Texas, and changed to a bus bound for Las Vegas, Nevada, that passed through Albuquerque.

After spending some time in Las Vegas, she made her way back to Albuquerque before she called her fiance early Saturday, Belcher said.

Belcher said he drove to Mason's home to join the call.

He said he "clearly identified" himself to Wilbanks as the chief of police and that she told him that when she was jogging last Tuesday, a Hispanic male and white female jumped her from behind, placed her in a van and drove off.

"At this point, she did violate Georgia law by advising me of this situation -- that she was kidnapped," Belcher said.
 
She cost the taxpayers of the state of Georgia upwards of $60,000, possibly more. That was the number I heard today. She absolutely should be held accountable for her actions and for the money that was wasted on a phantom bride-hunt.
 

Jamison

Cadet
GarnerForEmmy said:
She cost the taxpayers of the state of Georgia upwards of $60,000, possibly more.  That was the number I heard today.  She absolutely should be held accountable for her actions and for the money that was wasted on a phantom bride-hunt.
[post="1326013"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]​


Exactly! And what makes me mad (and many of the people from her town) is the fact that she shows no remorse. She doesn't feel her actions were wrong, and has yet to come out and apologize.


An unrelated, but interesting fact is that she was engaged once before, and ended up breaking it (not in nearly the same manner as this)...but interesting, maybe marriage isn't her thing.
 

xinli11

Cadet
She should so be prosecuted. I mean come on. It was a huge multistate manhunt. I mean we have real kidnap victims in need of those same services, but she robbed them of those services. I mean what the hell was she thinking?

1) Did she plan to stay kidnapped forever and let her friends, family and fiance think she was dead?
2) If not ,didn't she think she'd have to face the issues when she came back?

She obviously lost her mind. I mean she's not 16 for crying out loud, think and act like an adult for a change. You know if the groom did something insane like this, he'd be crucified in the public and totally be facing charges. I don't see why she shouldn't face the same charges and public ridicule. She pisses the hell out of me. She could face up to a year in prison..I hope she gets at least 6 months.

Xin Li
 
ok, getting cold feet is one thing. faking ur own kidnapping is just sad. this is what happens when you marry for "love". if God really blessed this marriage, this wouldnt happen.
 

Jamison

Cadet
the_alliance said:
ok, getting cold feet is one thing. faking ur own kidnapping is just sad. this is what happens when you marry for "love". if God really blessed this marriage, this wouldnt happen.
[post="1329016"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]​


The funny thing is she's saying now it wasn't cold feet.

I don't get it...it's obvious that she does have some issues.

And I still hold that she should have to pay...and it is looking like she's going to reimburse her town...not sure of the criminal charges.
 
Another interesting aspect to this case is how much media attention it got both before and after the truth came out. There was an editorial in the Boston Herald lambasting the news networks for deviting so much time to this story and not on serious issues like the war, politics, etc. It does seems like the media favors sensational stories like this or the Michael Jackson case over more important issues.
 

Jamison

Cadet
ms.katejones said:
Another interesting aspect to this case is how much media attention it got both before and after the truth came out. There was an editorial in the Boston Herald lambasting the news networks for deviting so much time to this story and not on serious issues like the war, politics, etc. It does seems like the media favors sensational stories like this or the Michael Jackson case over more important issues.
[post="1329030"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]​


I completely agree...The Daily Show said a similiar thing a few nights ago.

It's ridiculous, that so much time is devoted to this "story". I've noticed that cable news networks like to become fixated on a story and they stay with it until a new one comes along. We had the Tsunami, Laci Peterson, the Pope's death, the election of a new Pope, Michael Jackson, Robert Blake, now the 'run away bride.'

While I think that all of these were important (some much more than others) it was crazy with how fixated we became on all of them. CNN and FOX news had around the clock coverage for many of them...which just seems ridiculous.

You hardly heard anything today about the bombing outside the British Consulate in New York or how Bush is proposing letting part of the National Wildlife Refuge be used for building roads and logging or about how they found out who 'Precious Doe' was and have filed charges in regards to her death...it was heavily dominated by the Jennifer Wilbanks story...go on the homepage for CNN right now and the headlined story is Jennifer Wilbanks and on FOX news it's the Michael Jackson trial...
 

xinli11

Cadet
Jamison said:
I completely agree...The Daily Show said a similiar thing a few nights ago.

It's ridiculous, that so much time is devoted to this "story".  I've noticed that cable news networks like to become fixated on a story and they stay with it until a new one comes along.  We had the Tsunami, Laci Peterson, the Pope's death, the election of a new Pope, Michael Jackson, Robert Blake, now the 'run away bride.'

While I think that all of these were important (some much more than others) it was crazy with how fixated we became on all of them.  CNN and FOX news had around the clock coverage for many of them...which just seems ridiculous.

You hardly heard anything today about the bombing outside the British Consulate in New York or how Bush is proposing letting part of the National Wildlife Refuge be used for building roads and logging or about how they found out who 'Precious Doe' was and have filed charges in regards to her death...it was heavily dominated by the Jennifer Wilbanks story...go on the homepage for CNN right now and the headlined story is Jennifer Wilbanks and on FOX news it's the Michael Jackson trial...
[post="1329041"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]​

You are so right about that. But here's the sad truth about our ohh so wonder free and impartial press. It used to be about public service, keeping the public informed of world changing events. These days, it's just another entertainment business. Just look at CNN for example. They have all kinds of fancy graphics animations, etc. WHo needs all that? When was the last time we needed some fancy graphic to report a story? It's just there to entertain the masses. Sure when a world changing event like 911 comes along, all the news networks cover that story ad nausium. But for the other 364 days, they are as much concerned about ratings as ABC or CBS.
 

hannahb

Cadet
I think she should get a big fine I mean why do you call the police every bride gets cold feet before there wedding but they make it
 
Top