source contradicts account of spontaneous cross-country trip
monday, may 2, 2005 posted: 7:05 pm edt (2305 gmt)
atlanta, georgia (cnn) -- jennifer wilbanks, the betrothed suburban atlanta woman whose pre-wedding flight spawned a national search, could face misdemeanor or felony charges, a prosecutor said monday.
gwinnett county district attorney danny porter said he determined that his office could press charges against the 32-year-old medical assistant from duluth, but he did not specify when he would make that decision.
porter said a misdemeanor charge of making a false police report and the felony charge of making false statements to authorities are under consideration.
wilbanks' fiance, john mason, 32, told cnn his "only concern now is to get jennifer well." according to the atlanta journal-constitution's web, mason also told a tv interviewer, "hey, we all mess up. we all make mistakes."
wilbanks, who was scheduled to get married saturday in front of 600 guests and 28 attendants, disappeared last tuesday evening, prompting three days of searching.
on friday, she called mason from a pay phone in albuquerque, new mexico, and said two people had abducted her. albuquerque police said they will not bring charges.
porter said earlier that "if she just freaked out and split, i'd be less inclined to hold her criminally responsible than if it were a deceptive plan all along."
"albuquerque probably made the right decision, given the level of involvement that they had in the case," porter said monday on cnn's "american morning." "but here in gwinnett, we had a huge involvement."
a source briefed on the status of the investigation said wilbanks had bought her cross-country bus ticket several days before she disappeared, and had made advance arrangements for a ride to the bus station.
that account clashes with what the fbi said wilbanks told investigators after she surfaced late friday in albuquerque.
fbi spokesman bill elwell said saturday that she told them she embarked on her trip without a plan, leaving on "the spur of the moment" with $140 to $150.
the stress of the wedding had gotten to her, and after she went jogging tuesday evening she took a taxi to a greyhound bus station, where she boarded a bus to las vegas, nevada, elwell said.
wilbanks initially told police in new mexico she had been kidnapped, but after questioning admitted she fled voluntarily because she "needed some time alone" before the wedding, police said.
"she admitted she did cut her hair on her own," elwell said. "she did not want anyone to recognize her. she had some idea people were looking for her."
a one-way bus ticket to las vegas from the atlanta area costs about $170 -- more than investigators said she told them she was carrying at the time.
wilbanks told investigators that after a night in las vegas, she befriended a hispanic man and a white woman, and the three took a bus to albuquerque.
wilbanks returned to atlanta late saturday, handing a statement for reporters to a flight attendant shortly before landing. (full story
duluth residents, including some of the 150 volunteers who had helped search for wilbanks, had a mixed reaction to her return. (more hometown reaction
duluth mayor shirley lasseter said monday the cost for the search may have been $100,000. the city clerk was totaling the expenditures and lasseter's office was mulling civil charges.
"we have our attorney checking into it to see if we can recoup anything," lasseter said on cnn's "american morning."
"i think when we all do wrong that we must be punished for that in some way," lasseter said.
"i think for this action there needs to be some type of reaction, and there needs to be some type of retribution that she should feel to give back to the community for what she has put them through for these many days."
last year, a wisconsin college student who faked her abduction was sentenced to probation and ordered to reimburse police. (full story
cnn's charles molineaux, peter viles and rich phillips contributed to this report.
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