Saturday, April 30, 2005
Woman Found in Albuquerque
A Georgia bride-to-be who vanished just days before her wedding turned up in New Mexico and fabricated a tale of abduction before admitting Saturday that she got cold feet and "needed some time alone,'' police said.
Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, had called her fiance from a pay phone late Friday and told him that she was kidnapped three days earlier while she was jogging, authorities said.
But she soon recanted, according to police.
"She was in discussion with detectives and agents and she decided that she needed to do the right thing and tell the right story,'' Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz said.
Police in both New Mexico and Georgia said no charges will be filed.
Wilbanks had been missing since Tuesday, when her fiance reported that she went for her nightly run and didn't come home.
Schultz said she apparently left her home town for Las Vegas, Nev., on a Greyhound bus. She came to Albuquerque sometime Friday.
During initial questioning by police in Albuquerque she told authorities she had been kidnapped. But detectives said there were inconsistencies in her story and at about 4 a.m., she she told the truth.
"It turns out that Miss Wilbanks basically felt the pressure of this large wedding and could not handle it,'' said Randy Belcher, the police chief in Duluth, Ga., the Atlanta suburb where Wilbanks lives.
Wilbanks was tired and thirsty but was not complaining of any injuries, officials said. Her hair, which was long in pictures released by her family, was shoulder-length.
Asked about her emotional state early Saturday, Schultz said: "She is very upset.''
In her phone call to her fiance, John Mason, she claimed she had been adbucted and then freed by her captors.
"Jennifer said she thought the people got scared because of all the media coverage and just let her go,'' Ann Wilbanks, the woman's stepmother, told The Associated Press.
Duluth police traced the call to Albuquerque as the couple spoke, Ahrensfield said.
"She went to the pay phone at the 7-Eleven there and called her family. Then we were contacted through their police,'' she said.
Mason said he wanted to burst into tears when his fiancee called.
"When I finally put the phone down, it was like the burden of the world fell off my shoulders,'' he said outside the home of Wilbanks' family in Georgia.
Wilbanks, who is a nurse, was picked up by police on the corner of a main street near the 7-Eleven.
Mason and Wilbanks' family planned to fly to Albuquerque later Saturday the same day that the couple had been planning to marry.
Just hours before Wilbanks was found, police in Duluth said they had no solid leads in the case and began dismantling a search center. Relatives offered a $100,000 reward for information and were planning a prayer vigil.
The hunt for Wilbanks had consumed Duluth, a tight-knit town. Her picture and newspaper articles about her disappearance were on telephone poles and shop windows. Police had also seized three computers from the couple's home.
The wedding, which had been scheduled for Saturday, was elaborate. The couple had mailed 600 invitations, and the ceremony was to feature 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen.
Her uncle, Mike Satterfield, thanked people who had helped in the search.
"Jennifer had some issues the family was not aware of. We're looking forward to loving her and talking to her about these issues,'' he said.
AP reporter Kristen Wyatt in Duluth, Ga., contributed to this report.