AWOL Bride Asked To Apologize

This undated family photo shows Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, of Duluth, Ga., Wilbanks was reported missing Tuesday, April 26, 2005, by her fiance, John Mason, who said the bride-to-be was last seen hours earlier leaving her suburban Atlanta home to go jogging on her one-mile route, police said. AP

She fled her lavish wedding, triggered a massive police search, and she says she's sorry.

Jennifer Wilbanks is "deeply regretful" about the pain she caused her family, fiancé, friends and the community, lawyer Lydia Sartain said in a statement.

But townspeople who joined in the three-day search for runaway bride are getting increasingly peeved that they still have not heard an apology straight from her.

"She made a big mistake. She needs to come out and face it," said Ron Harris, owner of The Soda Shop in this Atlanta suburb, where most patrons were annoyed Wilbanks has been back in Georgia since Saturday but hasn't said a word about her disappearance.

Sartain, the former district attorney of an area that includes two Georgia counties, has been hired to represent Wilbanks and plans a news conference Thursday afternoon, along with the pastor of Wilbanks' church.

The runaway bride hasn't been charged with a crime, but prosecutors have said they are investigating the matter. And the mayor of her hometown has suggested Wilbanks could be sued for the cost of the search effort.

A spokesman for Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville — where Wilbanks has been undergoing counseling — has said she likely will issue a more detailed statement this week.

Mayor Shirley Lasseter, who is considering a lawsuit to recoup the $40,000 to $60,000 cost of the search, said the community has clearly grown tired of waiting for Wilbanks.

"Now some of the sentiment is changing to, 'This is going on too long. This is pitiful.'"

"She is not in it to please the public," Sartain said. "She wants the public to know that she is sorry, but she really is not well."

The 32-year-old Wilbanks touched off an extensive search last week when she vanished from her Duluth, Ga., home four days before her scheduled 600-guest wedding.

Wilbanks' possible prosecution is up to Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter. Porter is in the early stages of an investigation into the matter, and it may be weeks before he decides whether to file criminal charges.

An array of questions remains about the case of the bride-to-be.

Porter said the dollar figures don't add up: Wilbanks told police she took only $140 with her when she left her Duluth, Ga., house to go jogging on April 26. But Porter tells the Gwinnett Daily Post the cost for such a journey would be more than $260, not including food, hotels or other miscellaneous purchases.
  • Christine Lagorio

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