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"Runaway Bride" Charged for Lying About Disappearance One Week Before Wedding

May 27, 2005  | 

Jennifer Wilbanks of Duluth, Georgia, is being charged with filing a false police report claiming she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted. She admits she lied about the circumstances surrounding her disappearance one week before her scheduled wedding. But her attorney says she didn’t commit a crime.

A grand jury indicted Wilbanks on one count of making a false police report, a misdemeanor, and one count of false statement, a felony, which carries a maximum sentence of five years. Together, the charges could put Wilbanks in prison for up to six years.

“We believe this is a reasonable next step in the case,” Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter told the Associated Press. We believe the grand jury made the right decision. At some point there has to be a consequence for lying to the police.”

Wilbanks cites undisclosed personal reasons for leaving the home she shared with her fiancé late at night and disappearing on a bus to Las Vegas and then to Albuquerque. During this time, multiple law enforcement agencies searched for her, expending an enormous amount of resources, money, and man hours. Some of them want Wilbanks to pay them back.

While several agencies have said they won’t ask Wilbanks to pay them back, the city of Duluth is seeking repayment of about $40,000. Wilbanks’ attorney, Lydia Sartain, says the woman didn’t commit a crime there and is trying to find another solution.

Wilbanks has offered to pay $13,250 to the city to help offset the costs its police officers incurred in the three-day search. Shirley Lasseter, the attorney for the city of Duluth, says the city will accept the offer if it is made in writing.

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