Stephen M. Silverman
May 16, 2005 12:00 PM

Runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks, whose exploits captured the country’s imagination, may have had a reason for targeting New Mexico as her destination: A former flame.

Out west was a man with whom she had a past physical relationship, reports the New York Post. However, the reputed object of Wilbanks’s desire, mild-mannered CPA Todd Kendrick, tells the paper: “I would have turned her ass in, no question. And then, I’d have asked for the $100,000 reward.”

Wilbanks’s high-profile three-day flight from her fiance, John Mason, was no laughing matter as far as Kendrick, 41, was concerned, since people knew of his past fling with the 32-year-old bride-to-be from Georgia. “People from home called,” the accountant, who considers Wilbanks “a crazy girl,” tells the Post. “They knew we’d dated, that she’d been out here before.”

Wilbanks disappeared April 26, just days before her scheduled wedding, an event to which 500 guests had been invited. She then phoned police to say she’d been kidnapped, a tale that turned out to be false. She’d actually taken a bus to Las Vegas and then to New Mexico.

As for his past relationship with Wilbanks, Kendrick says: “It was a couple dates a couple of years ago. It wasn’t serious. It was what it was. When I heard she was here, I thought, ‘Oh, God, why not Idaho?’ – anywhere else, really.”

Wilbanks – who voluntarily entered an inpatient medical treatment program on May 9 – never did call Kendrick in New Mexico, he says, adding: “She has hurt a lot of people. I just want to be left alone, for this to be over.”

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