Jennifer Wilbanks voluntarily checks into program to address 'physical and mental issues'

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated May 10, 2005 04:00 PM

The drama of the runaway bride continues, with Jennifer Wilbanks voluntarily entering an inpatient medical treatment program late Monday, says a spokesman for her family’s church – though Georgia District Attorney Danny Porter says the move will not protect Wilbanks from possibly facing charges from his office.

Without citing specifics, Sammy Smith, a spokesman for Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville, Ga., said in a statement released on Tuesday: “Ms. Wilbanks entered a highly regarded, inpatient treatment program on her own volition to address physical and mental issues which, she believes, played a major role in her ‘running from herself’ as she described in a public statement last week.”

He added, “Updates on her condition will be announced at a later time as approved by medical personnel and her attorney.”

On Thursday of last week, 32-year-old Wilbanks apologized for disappearing just before her April 30 wedding day, which triggered a nationwide search that lasted three days – until she contacted police in New Mexico.

In her statement read last week by Lakewood’s pastor, the Rev. Tom Smiley, Wilbanks blamed her disappearance not on cold feet, but on “a host of compelling issues, which seemed out of control.”

In her prepared message, Wilbanks asked for the forgiveness of fianc John Mason, their families, friends, churches and communities “and any others I may have offended unintentionally,” adding that she was “deeply grateful and appreciative to everyone who responded on my behalf.”

The district attorney told the Associated Press that he was not involved in Wilbanks’s decision to seek treatment, nor was it part of a plea agreement with his office.

“It doesn’t make any difference in my charging decision,” Porter said. “The fact that she sought treatment might make a difference in the ultimate disposition of the case if there are charges.”