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Wedding Turns to Prayer Vigil for Missing Bride (Jennifer Wilbanks)

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Wedding Turns to Prayer Vigil for Missing Bride (Jennifer Wilbanks)

Old 04-29-05, 04:07 PM
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Wedding Turns to Prayer Vigil for Missing Bride (Jennifer Wilbanks)


By KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press Writer
12 minutes ago

DULUTH, Ga. - A lavish wedding with 600 guests seemed destined to become a prayer service after police called off the search Friday for a missing bride-to-be, saying they have "turned over probably every leaf in the city."

Jennifer Carol Wilbanks disappeared Tuesday after her fiance said she went on a jog and never came back. Hundreds of police and volunteers spent the week searching the woods of this Atlanta suburb for the nurse.

With authorities acknowledging Friday they have no solid leads, relatives offered a $100,000 reward and said wedding guests will likely still gather at the church Saturday, but for a prayer vigil instead.

Attention in the case has now turned to fiance John Mason, a 32-year-old office manager who teaches a Sunday school class and coaches his church's youth basketball team. Mason has refused to take a police polygraph test except under conditions outlined by his attorney, Police Chief Randy Belcher said.

The fiance's lawyer turned in results from a privately administered polygraph, which family members said he passed, but Belcher said police still wanted to talk to him.

The fiance and his lawyer have requested the police polygraph to be videotaped, something Belcher said no law enforcement agency "that's worth anything" would do. Belcher said negotiations about the polygraph would continue. Mason's lawyer did not immediately return phone calls to elaborate.

Three computers seized at the home Thursday were being analyzed, but the police chief would not say whether they found anything useful.

Meanwhile, tearful family members gathered at the home of the soon-to-be-married couple, and were frustrated by the lack of clues. Police are testing some strands of hair and a few articles of clothing turned in, but added they had no reason to believe that any of it belonged to Wilbanks.

Wilbanks' uncle, Mike Satterfield, said he didn't fault police for wrapping up the search: "You can only search so much and so many times."

The hunt for Wilbanks consumed this tight-knit town for days. Her picture and newspaper articles about her disappearance were on telephone poles and shop windows.

A friend of Wilbanks', Killie McCauley, said the wedding was "the talk of the town." Fourteen bridesmaids were planning to stand beside her as she married Mason, whom a friend described as "a big teddy bear."

"He's one of the kindest people you'll ever meet," said Melinda Larson, a friend of Mason's who was planning to attend the wedding. "Jennifer had a dream of this huge, elaborate wedding, and John was so supportive."

Mason attended a family news conference but did not talk to reporters. Satterfield, the bride's uncle, said Mason wanted to talk but wasn't sure what to say. "There's not much John can say that wouldn't make speculation worse," Satterfield said.

Mason works at Mason Primary Care, which his family owns, said Andy Parsons, the Mason family's management consultant.

"He is one of the most decent, upstanding Christian men I've ever met," said Parsons, who meets weekly with Mason for a private Bible study session. "He's the teacher. I'm the pupil."

He said Mason is frightened.

"He is scared at the moment. His fiance disappeared. He's scared for Jennifer's safety," said Parsons, who has visited Mason at home since Wilbanks' disappearance. "I would say he's drawing on every ounce of strength that he's got. He's still trying to remain positive."

After the family and police spoke with reporters Friday, police started dismantling a search center that had been set up in a strip mall parking lot about a mile from Wilbanks' house. A mobile police unit was packed up and yellow crime tape was rolled up and put away.

Family members said they would spend the night once planned for a rehearsal dinner praying for Wilbanks.

I hope this doesn't turn out like these:

http://www.dvdtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=375936 Lori Hacking

and of course Laci Peterson


There seems to be a patern here, with the women going out for a jog or walk. It sounds like it's getting pretty dangerous to be in a relationship and go out for some exercise.

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Old 04-29-05, 04:10 PM
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Now why wouldn't the police want to videotape the polygraph test?

And why should there be negotiations for a polygraph test? How times have changed.

It will be interesting to see what happens in this case.

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Old 04-29-05, 04:13 PM
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Woman's Fiance May Take Polygraph

Web Editor: Sean Rowe
Reported By: Paul Crawley
Last Modified: 4/29/2005 11:54:37 AM

The fiancé of a 32-year-old bride-to-be who never returned home from a jog last Tuesday night may be taking a Polygraph test sometime Friday.

John Mason says he volunteered to take the lie-detector test last Wednesday. Duluth Police Chief Randall Belcher announced during a news conference Thursday evening that Mason could be going through with it at a time to be determined on Friday.

“I don't know that he’s made the decision, he’s going to announce that, but John has nothing to hide,” said Rev. Alan Jones, the couple’s pastor and the associate pastor of Peachtree Corners Baptist Church.

Authorities say Mason, who is not a suspect in Jennifer Wilbanks’ disappearance, has cooperated with the authorities in their initial search, which, as of Thursday, turned into a criminal investigation joined by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Police have taken three computers from the home Wilbanks shared with Mason and looking through e-mails to see if they can help authorities solve her disappearance.

When asked if police had ruled out Wilbanks simply coming down with cold feet days before her Saturday wedding, which features about 500 guests, 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen, Duluth police Chief Randy Belcher said, “It's a very real possibility she did get cold feet. I mean, how many husbands have gone out for a pack of cigarettes and not come back?"

Police expect to resume their search efforts about 8 a.m. Friday, specifically focusing on two areas with difficult terrain to cover. Only law enforcement will be taking part acting from a command post at Pleasant Hill Road.

The family of Jennifer WIlbanks is expected to speak at a 12:15 p.m. news conference on Friday, while Duluth police say they will be holding a new conference at 1 p.m.

The second-full day of searching for Wilbanks in Duluth, located about 25 minutes northeast of Atlanta, ended Thursday evening with only a clump of hair and some clothes having been retrieved.

Belcher said the hair police found during their search near the couple's home likely is not that of Wilbanks because the hair appears to have been cut not pulled. He says several sweat shirts have been found, though he is unsure if they are connected to the case.

Duluth police Major Don Woodruff says efforts have yet to turn up any clues.

“We have no physical evidence of anything at this point in time, but, again, based on the fact that according to the family members this is totally uncharacteristic of her behavior, and as such being the case, we would have to classify it as a criminal investigation at this time,” the major said.

Wilbanks, a medical assistant and marathon runner, only took her radio with her when she went jogging. She left behind her keys, cell phone, cash, credit cards and personal identification.

Those who know Wilbanks say they are holding on to hope that she is alright and will make it safely back home.

Jennifer’s father, Harris Wilbanks, said, “Jennifer, we love you. Please call us. I’ve got on the shirt you gave me for Father’s Day and I would love to walk you down the aisle Saturday night.”

Some wedding guests say they will be at the Duluth First United Methodist Church on Saturday night regardless of what happens.

Friend Melinda Larson said, “One way or another we’re all going to be at the church Saturday night. We’re either going to pray or we’re going to celebrate a wedding.”

Wilbanks was last seen wearing a grey sweat shirt, blue sweat pants, and blue New Balance running shoes. She is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds.

Anyone with information regarding Wilbanks’ disappearance is asked to contact the Duluth Police Department at 770-476-4151.

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Old 04-29-05, 04:18 PM
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I don't understand why the police wouldn't videotape the polygraph test--it seems like a very reasonable request to me.

It's kind of sad that the first suspect is always the husband or boyfriend, though of course, that's often who did it. I try not to assume until there's some evidence though. The godmother of my little sisters was murdered while jogging on a family trip to Hawaii in the 1970's, and of course, her husband was a suspect. They caught the guy years later though, and it really was a random rape and murder. Pretty sad that many people suspected him when he was going through such an incredible loss.
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Old 04-29-05, 04:25 PM
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It almost makes sense to stay with the hand, that way you cannot be accused of killing your significant other!

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Old 04-29-05, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by mrpayroll
Now why wouldn't the police want to videotape the polygraph test?

And why should there be negotiations for a polygraph test? How times have changed.

It will be interesting to see what happens in this case.

It would be unlawful for them to force him to take a polygraph. Therefore it may be necessary to negotiate to get him to "volunteer." I also don't understand why the police would refuse the request to have it viseotaped. It seems to offer some protection to all parties that the whole thing is "above board." Now you have to ask, who doesn't want it to be above board and why?
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Old 04-29-05, 05:37 PM
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This story has really gripped the local area. No one knows if a random killer is on the loose or if we are in for a Peterson trial. Let me tell you about the area where this is happening.

Duluth is a suburb of Atlanta in Gwinnett county. The northern and western areas of Duluth are rather affluent. The eastern and southern parts gets kinda seedy. She was jogging near the town center, which is an ok area, but walk a bit and it gets questionable.

West of Duluth is Alpharetta, one or the wealthier areas of Atlanta. McMansions abound. Soccer moms drive thier little darlings from school to ballet to music lessons in their SUVs. Crime is not a problem.

Just south of Duluth is Norcross (skipping around Berkeley Lake for you locals). Where Duluth controlled growth, Norcross never met a developer it didn't like. Overbuilt strip malls and apartments enivitably led to pawn shops and low rent housing. Norcross is also one of the areas of Gwinnett that immigrants flock to (legal and illegal).

So Duluth is at the nexus of two worlds, pretty different from each other. This is a rather new situation. Up until a decade ago, Duluth was pretty much Alpharetta-east. Since then, crime in the area has steadily increased as has gang and drug activity.

So is this meaningful to the case? I don't know. I just hope they catch the perpetrator, fiance or not.

For more information in the forums or to listen to Duluth/Gwinnett police scanner traffic go to ScanGwinnett.
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Old 04-29-05, 05:51 PM
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I figure they don't want to videotape it because then the defense lawyer has something to pick apart. When I worked in the prosecutor's office and would prosecute johns after a sting, we never had a videotape. We lost plenty of cases because of that. I asked my supervisor why we didn't videotape the sting as it was occurring and he said that then the defense would have even more to pick apart to raise their reasonable doubt - making the defense job much easier. We were able to successfully prosecute more johns without the videotape than with it.

Also, I do not know much about polygraph examinations, but if the norm is no videotape, then having the videotape in the room would make it harder for the results of the polygraph to be considered accurate - as statistics regarding polygraph examinations and their accuracy would not apply to this test because of the introduction of the camera.

Last edited by ukywyldcat; 04-29-05 at 05:55 PM.
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Old 04-29-05, 06:14 PM
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so does he have to return the gifts now?
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Old 04-29-05, 07:22 PM
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You're probably in for a Peterson trial. She didn't get cold feet, that's for sure. Women just don't run away from their weddings.

As to the search teams, isn't it interesting we hear, "We've searched everywhere high and low, and can't find Person X." When about a week later, they find the body only a 1/4 of a mile from the point of last known location.

Both are from wealthy families, so money may not be the primary motive. However, the house needs to be combed.

Also, would any of you search the local hospitals first before calling the cops when you know your fiance is missing? Kinda odd.

My guess, is she never went for a jog.

As to polygraphing, you never want it videotaped--prosecution or defense. If your the opposing side, then hell yeah, you want it videotaped. Usually, videotaping interviews is enough. The reason you don't want it videotaped, is because you (the opposing party) can more than likely show areas where the polygrapher was using prejudice in the test and/or where the person taking the test behaved in a certain way in response to the question which was the opposite of what the answer was. So, to reduce this possibility or basically throwing the poly out, you don't have any video of it (and if you do you don't tell the public), and are only provided with a transcript.

(I noticed ukywyldcat said basically the same thing in regards to polygraph tests)
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Old 04-30-05, 02:35 AM
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Missing Georgia bride-to-be, found alive, police say. More details soon ...

Very interesting

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Old 04-30-05, 02:43 AM
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Police: Missing bride-to-be found alive
32-year-old Georgia woman found in New MexicoBREAKING NEWS
The Associated Press
Updated: 3:37 a.m. ET April 30, 2005ATLANTA - A 32-year-old woman who vanished just days before she was to be married was found alive early Saturday in New Mexico, police said.

Jennifer Wilbanks had been missing since Tuesday, when her fiance reported that she went for her nightly run and didn't come home, according to police in Duluth, Ga., where the couple lives.

Wilbanks was found just hours after police in the Atlanta suburb started dismantling a search center, saying they had no solid leads.

Duluth police confirmed that she had been found but had no immediate details.

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Old 04-30-05, 03:00 AM
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Jennifer Wilbanks Found Alive in New Mexico
Crime/Punishment Blog

From Charles Montaldo,
Your Guide to Crime / Punishment.

April 30, 2005
Jennifer Wilbanks Found Alive in New Mexico
Cable news networks are reporting that Jennifer Wilbanks, the bride-to-be who has been missing since Tuesday from Duluth, Georgia, has been found alive in Albuquerque, New Mexico, apparently the victim of an abduction by strangers.

"Her abductors let her go," her Pastor Alan Jones told CNN. "They got scared and let her go and she made it to a pay phone and actually called the home."

Wilbanks said her abductors "came up behind her, cut her hair and put her in a blue van," Jones said. Jones said Wilbanks "sounded a little frantic, a little scared."

Jennifer told family members that she was grabbed by more than one abducter, who cut her hair and forced her into a vehicle.

She stayed on the telephone with family members until local Albuquerque police came to her location. Using the caller-ID number to trace the location of the payphone, police were able to locate her.

Couple Abducts Jogger

She told her fiance that a hispanic male and a white female grabber her from behind and forced her into a blue van. She didn't hear them approach her from behind because she was listening to her mp3 player.

Family members planned to travel to Albuquerque to bring Jennifer home on the day that she was scheduled to be married.

Police in Duluth earlier had called off the official search for Wilbanks after searching the entire city limits. "We've turned over every leaf in this city. I have suspended all future searches" until more evidence is found, Duluth Police Chief Randy Belcher told reporters.

The family had offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to her return.

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Old 04-30-05, 03:12 AM
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I wonder if the groom arranged to have her kidnapped in return for a ransom from her parents. They let her go because "the strangers" got cold feet.

I'd be looking at his finances very carefully.
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Old 04-30-05, 05:11 AM
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I suspect there were no kidnappers. She ran away. It doesn't make sense to kidnap someone, drive her half-way across the country, and then drop her off at a 7-11 at midnight.
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Old 04-30-05, 06:30 AM
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I was thinknig the same thing as Nick Danger
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Old 04-30-05, 06:46 AM
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Looks like Nick Danger was right.

Police: Ga. Woman Fabricated Kidnap Story By MARY PEREA, Associated Press Writer
9 minutes ago

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A Georgia bride-to-be who vanished just days before her wedding has admitted that she lied about being abducted, police said Saturday.

Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, called her fiance from a pay phone late Friday in New Mexico and told him that she had been kidnapped, police said. She had vanished Tuesday.

"She was in discussion with detectives and agents and she decided that she needed to do the right thing and tell the right story," said Ray Schultz, the police chief in Albuquerque.
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Old 04-30-05, 06:53 AM
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Such an odd, odd story. A friend at work is in this couple's Sunday school class and he was SURE the boyfriend had nothing to do with this. If it's really true she did this on her own that is some cold feet. Like 80 below zero.
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Old 04-30-05, 06:57 AM
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She was found. She took a bus to the West.

Georgia bride-to-be fabricated abduction story

(CNN) -- A Georgia woman, who was found in New Mexico early Saturday and who said she had been abducted, admitted today she had made up the story because she was nervous about her upcoming wedding, police said.

Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz said Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, had told them she had taken a bus to Las Vegas, Nevada, and on Saturday had taken another bus to New Mexico.

Earlier, Wilbanks had told family members and police that she had been abducted by a man and a woman in a van. She was to be married Saturday.

"Agents and detectives learned Miss Wilbanks had become scared and concerned about her pending marriage and decided she needed some time alone," Schultz said.

Schultz said no charges would be filed against Wilbanks, saying that would be up to authorities in Georgia.

Wilbanks called her fiance, John Mason, at his Duluth, Georgia, home from an Albuquerque pay phone at 1 a.m. EDT Saturday to say she had freed by two strangers who abducted her Tuesday night, Mason said.

Within minutes, Wilbanks was located by Albuquerque Police at a 7-Eleven convenience store.

Family members are expected to fly to Albuquerque Saturday morning to be with her.

Wilbanks, who was to be married to Mason in Duluth, was last seen by her fiance Tuesday night, when she left the home she shares with him for a jog about 8:30 p.m.

Earlier, Pastor Alan Jones, who was to preside at the wedding said Wilbanks told him her abductors "came up behind her, cut her hair and put her in a blue van," Jones said.

Among the clues found during the search that followed her disappearance was a clump of hair along the route she was believed to have been jogging. Ahrensfield, the Albuquerque Police spokeswoman, said it appeared Wilbanks hair had been cut.

Her father, Harris Wilbanks, said a new wedding date will be set after they talk to her.

He said Friday evening, the hours before learning his daughter was alive, was the lowest point of his life.

Disappearance drew national attention

News of Wilbanks' admission comes just hours after police in Georgia announced they would suspend their ground search for her, saying they've looked everywhere she may have been.

Her disappearance quickly drew national media attention, including talk show speculation sometimes comparing the story to that of Laci Peterson, the pregnant woman who disappeared from her Modesto, California, home on Christmas Eve, 2002. In that case, husband Scott Peterson was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

Wilbanks' fiance said he tried not to get upset about the media comparisons to the Peterson case since he knew her family had faith in him.

"I never worried that they were going to point their fingers at me," Mason said.

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Old 04-30-05, 07:04 AM
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Wow. This is a bizarre story.
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Old 04-30-05, 07:04 AM
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Advice to fiance: Run, be very afraid, she's a flake. Life will be hell.
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Old 04-30-05, 07:56 AM
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If he still marries her, he's a loser...Why, she's a psycho nut, lying about being kidnapped. Whats to say after marriage when life gets tough, she'll conjure up some more crap? Get the hell out of there, there are other less crazy women out there.
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Old 04-30-05, 08:02 AM
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Seeing how she lied about everything, I hope they hold her accountable to all the money that was spent in looking for her. Cold feet is one thing, but having hundreds of people look for you is another. I am glad that she is alive though. Just make her pay our tax money back.

As for her future husband, my advice would be to seriously reconsider the situation before getting married now. Obviously, her mental status will always be in question when it comes to "stress-related" matters. She may leave him again when she realizes she can't handle the stress of having kids?
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Old 04-30-05, 08:39 AM
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Ban her!!!!!

Oops! Not applicable.

Not to get into the whole debate about double standards, but had the guy done this to her do you think everyone would be saying "Oh, he just got cold feet," and shrugging like they are with her? I think people would be wanting him tarred and feathered. I wonder how she got the money to travel if she left without anything?

If she had never called and just assumed a new identity (seeing as how she cut her hair and all, that might have been what she was thinking at one point), could the husband-to-be possibly have been facing criminal charges?
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Old 04-30-05, 08:47 AM
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We'll see how it all plays out, but if Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lopez have tought me anything, a woman who buys a bus ticket last week (just being reported), leaves all of her stuff behind, sheds her jogging clothes, cuts her hair, and leaves town is not sowing wild oats or getting cold feet. She was leaving for good. And if Vegas has tought me anything (and it has ), her financial situation took a turn for the worse, and she was left to come up with a ridiculous tale of some SuperCuts on wheels. The poorness of the story makes it seem like she wasn't taking much time to put a lot of thought into it.
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