Missing Georgia Woman Found, Reportedly Got Cold Feet

Georgia Woman Found, Reportedly Got Cold Feet (AP)

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, was in police custody more than 1,420 miles from her home on what was supposed to be her wedding day Saturday. “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 with her fiance. He said there would be no criminal charges.

Wilbanks had called her fiance, John Mason, from a pay phone late Friday and told him that she had been kidnapped three days earlier while jogging, authorities said. Her family rejoiced that she was safe, telling reporters that the media coverage apparently got to the kidnappers. But Wilbanks, who is a nurse, soon recanted, according to police.

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.

There certainly should be criminal charges filed here. Her little stunt cost hundreds, if not thousands, of man hours for the police and took them away from trying to solve actual crimes.

And, if she can’t handle the stress of a wedding, I’d certainly hate to have her performing emergency medical services on me.

FILED UNDER: Policing, Uncategorized, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. wavemaker says:

    These stunts really piss me off. She really should be held accountable for the expense of the public resources spent on her behalf.

    Same with nitwits who climb mountains in the winter and have to be rescued.

  2. Marc says:

    I would agree with all of the above. Unfortunatly the only chargable crime she may have committed is the 911 call made in New Mexico reporting herself as being abducted. It would ba a misdemeaner but none the less she needs to be charged.

    This was a premeditated act (remember the cut hair found during the search) where she attempted to hide out until het “issues” were resolved.

    Question: Greyhound bus lines doesn’t serve Deluth Georgia. The nearest service is in Gainsville Ga. 30 miles away. If reports are true, that she left with no money, no wallet or credit cards, how did she get 30 miles away?

    Best case, more proof she planned this ahead of time and stashed cash somewhere.

    Worset case: I smell a rat. A previously unknown boyfriend rat.

  3. Michael says:

    Actually, from a legal perspective, she did nothing wrong, so you cannot charge her with anything. Leaving your fiance and going to New Mexico is not a crime – even if you don’t tell him. Ethically wrong? Absolutely. Unfortunately, ethically wrong doesn’t put somone in jail. She didn’t ask for hundreds of police officers to search for her.

    Having said that, I’d like to see her charged with filing a false police report. Get her on whatever you can get her on, I say. But again, legally, she didn’t do anything wrong up to that point.

  4. wavemaker says:

    I am not thinking crime here. I am thinking civil liability…

    Of course, idiocy is not a tort — but as has been pointed out, there appears to be evidence that she thought this out before she left, so we have an intentional act that she knew or should have known would result in her community’s law enforcement becoming engaged, to their financial detriment. The weakness is whether or not she owed any duty of care to those who were put to the expense of searching for her. If so, she could be liable for her negligence. But one does not typically owe a duty of care to the community in general — there is no special relationship between her and the police, unless you argue that one was created when she undertook her plan.

    Aw hell, I guess you just have to shake your head and grumble — and wait for some state legislator to file another bill.

  5. montana wildhack says:

    600 invitations? 14 bridesmaids? Yikes! Planning a wedding like that would be akin to planning D-Day.

  6. joy says:

    At the very least, you gotta think that Michael Jackson must be happy about this new national distraction.

  7. mesablue says:

    I think Marc is on the right track.

    Waiting for the other shoe to drop…

  8. George says:

    I guess what happens in Vegas REALLY stays in Vegas.

  9. Paul H! says:

    One line from an ABC/ AP report reads:

    “As police began searching for the blue van she said her captors drove, an impromptu pre-dawn street party broke out outside the home Mason and Wilbanks shared.”

    So let me get this straight: Aside from the size of the planned wedding, these two were already SHACKING UP, and she STILL got cold feet? Had she no shame about living with him without marrying him? I guess there are some mindsets I’ll never understand. At least I knew better than to put myself in that kind of situation before I got married. Perhaps it would be best if they broke off the engagement and parted ways, but somehow I doubt that will happen.

  10. Collin Klamper says:

    The frustrating thing is that this selfish ditz (you’ve seen her picture on TV, I stand by my claim) will undoubtably BREED and have more selfish dimwitted babies.
    Georgia has a problem with gay marriage and yet apparently has no laws against socially-retarded marriage? (or engagements) Come on Georgia, get your priorities straight, put this girl in jail.