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AWOL Bride: It Wasn't Cold Feet

Runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks apologized Thursday for disappearing just before her wedding day, and insisted cryptically that her flight was prompted not by cold feet, but by "a host of compelling issues that seemed out of control."

Wilbanks' three-day disappearance last week scared her family and friends and led to a nationwide search.

"I am truly sorry for the trouble I caused and I offer my deep and sincerest apology," the 32-year-old said in a statement read her father's pastor, the Rev. Tom Smiley.

She said she has asked for the forgiveness of her fiance, their families, friends, churches and communities "and any others I may have offended unintentionally."

She added that she has begun professional treatment to deal with the fears that she says were "controlling" her life.

Wilbanks could face criminal charges for allegedly claiming at first that she had been kidnapped. The mayor of Duluth, Ga., has threatened to sue her to recoup the $40,000 to $60,000 cost of the search. And many of those in the community expressed disgust when they learned that she had run off without telling anyone.

"At this time I cannot fully explain what happened to me last week. I had a host of compelling issues that seemed out of control," Wilbanks said.

In the statement, Wilbanks said her flight by bus to Las Vegas and eventually to Albuquerque, N.M., was not in response to her pending wedding, which had been scheduled four days after she vanished.

"Please let me assure you that running away had nothing to do with cold feet or anything to do with leaving John ... I could not wait to be called Mrs. John Mason," she said.

"In my mind, it was never about timing, however unfortunate. I was simply running away from myself and certain fears in my life," she said.

Smiley, who has been counseling Wilbanks, said she "poured her heart and her soul into this statement. These are her words and these are her feelings."

Wilbanks' attorney Lydia Sartain has said her client is seeking professional help for her problems and is in no condition to speak at this time. Wilbanks has been in seclusion with her family since her return to Georgia late Saturday.

"She has already apologized numerous times to people," Sartian told CBS' The Early Show.

"She is very sorry for the pain that she's caused her family, her fiancé, the community at large. She's very regretful of the inconvenience and the problems that she has caused."

The following is the text of the statement issued Thursday by Jennifer Wilbanks:

At this time, I cannot explain fully what happened to me last week. I had a host of compelling issues which seemed out of control - issues for which I was unable to address or confine. Please, may I assure you that my running away had nothing to do with "cold feet," nor was it ever about leaving John. Those who know me know how excited I've been, and how excited I was about the spectacular wedding we planned, and how I could not wait to be Mrs. John Mason.

In my mind, it was never about the timing, however unfortunate. I was simply running from myself and from certain fears controlling my life.

Each day I am understanding more about who I am and the issues that influenced me to respond inappropriately. Therefore, I have started professional treatment voluntarily.

I am truly sorry for the troubles I caused, and I offer my deep and sincere apology. I ask for John's forgiveness and that of his family. I also ask for forgiveness of my family, our friends, our respective churches, our communities, and any others I may have offended unintentionally.

I am deeply grateful and appreciative to everyone who responded on my behalf. I thank you for every expression of support and effort. Your sacrifices of time and personal inconvenience touched me deeply, and I hope your spirit of care is not lessened.

I understand that many people wanted to hear from me personally today, and I wanted to be here. However, I look forward to days ahead when I am strong enough to speak for myself.

As John said on countless occasions recently, may we follow the teaching of Scripture, in being kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving, just as God in Christ forgives us. Thank you.

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