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Runaway Bride May Still Wed

There is a "good possibility" runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks will wed her fiancé, but the couple are focusing on dealing with the issues that caused her to flee and fake her abduction, says her family pastor.

The Rev. Tom Smiley tells CBS News The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith the couple are not talking so much about getting married "as they are talking about getting better."

On Thursday, Smiley ready a statement from Wilbanks that said she was "truly sorry for the troubles I caused." The statement insisted her flight was prompted by issues that went beyond simple cold feet.

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

"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," the statement said.

She said her flight was the result of "a host of compelling issues, which seemed out of control."

Wilbanks' three-day disappearance led to a nationwide search and a media sensation.

"She told us she just wasn't aware." Smiley told Smith. "She's becoming more and more aware of all of the inconveniences and the difficulties that she caused, and she is truly appreciative of the Duluth community and Hall County community and Gwinnett County community and those who helped."

She initially told investigators she had been abducted by a Hispanic male and white woman with a handgun, a story that quickly unraveled.

Albuquerque, N.M., police said Thursday that Wilbanks also claimed she had been sexually assaulted, but recanted that claim with the rest of her story.


Wilbanks said she has asked for the forgiveness of Mason, her fiance; their families, friends, churches and communities; "and any others I may have offended unintentionally," adding that she was "deeply grateful and appreciative to everyone who responded on my behalf."

Many in the community expressed disgust when they learned that she had run off without telling anyone.

But Smiley said he has received hundreds of e-mails about Wilbanks and they have been "99 percent positive."

Wilbanks has not said publicly whether she still plans to marry Mason, but Smiley, who has been counseling Wilbanks, said Mason has been supportive.

"The number one concern is for her to get a handle on what's going on in her life," he said. Asked about her progress, he said, "We live in such an instant society today, and everyone wants everything right now, and that's just not possible."

Wilbanks' attorney, Lydia Sartain, has said her client is seeking professional help and is in no condition to publicly answer questions.

Her statement did not address Duluth Mayor Shirley Lasseter's request that she repay the city for the costs of the search and perform community service.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter is investigating possible criminal charges against Wilbanks for falsely reporting a crime. Porter said Thursday night he was awaiting an FBI report on Wilbanks' statements to authorities in Albuquerque.

Her statement also did not specifically address her false claim that a Hispanic man had abducted her. But Fernando Mateo, the president of the group Hispanics Across America, backed down from his threat to protest outside her home, saying members were satisfied with her general apology.

"Our purpose was not to crucify this woman but just to let the nation know they can't freely use the name 'Hispanic' in a stereotyping manner where Hispanics are perceived to be thugs and criminals," he said.

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