Ga. Woman Charged for Lies to Police
DA Indicts Runaway Bride Over Phony Story

By Daniel Yee
Associated Press
Thursday, May 26, 2005

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga., May 25 -- The woman who hopped a bus and vanished just before her wedding day was indicted Wednesday on charges of telling police a phony story about being kidnapped and sexually assaulted.

"At some point, there has to be a consequence for lying to the police," District Attorney Danny Porter said.

Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, was charged with making a false statement and making a false police report. She could get as many as six years in prison and $11,000 in fines if convicted. She could also be ordered to reimburse authorities for the cost of the search set off by her disappearance.

A warrant will be issued for Wilbanks's arrest within the next few days, and arrangements will probably be made for her to turn herself in, the district attorney said.

Wilbanks's family has said she checked into a medical facility after her return for treatment of "physical and mental issues." They have not said where.

Her attorney, Lydia Sartain, had no immediate comment but said before the charges were announced: "The citizens of the county will be ill-served by an attempted prosecution."

Wilbanks, a nurse, disappeared from her Duluth home on April 26, four days before her planned 600-guest wedding. She took a bus to Las Vegas and then Albuquerque, where she called authorities with a story about having been abducted.

But under questioning, she recanted. The woman, who has come to be known as the runaway bride, has since said she fled Georgia because of unspecified personal issues.

She returned to Georgia on April 30, the day she was to have been married in a ceremony with 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen.

Duluth's mayor is seeking repayment of about $40,000 in search costs.

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