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Runaway bride 'deeply regretful,' attorney says

Wilbanks' lawyer issues statement as demand for apology grows


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A billboard in Duluth pokes fun at the case -- but not everyone in the Atlanta suburb is laughing.
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So who exactly is Jennifer Wilbanks?

The district attorney is considering charges in the case.

CNN's Paula Zahn looks at the costs of the search.
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GAINESVILLE, Georgia (CNN) -- So-called runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks is "deeply regretful about the pain she caused," and she hopes her experience will "perhaps help others in similar circumstances," her attorney said in a statement Wednesday.

Wilbanks, a 32-year-old medical assistant from the Atlanta suburb of Duluth, disappeared April 26, four days before her wedding, prompting a large-scale search by police and volunteers.

On Saturday, Wilbanks surfaced in Albuquerque, New Mexico, telling police that she had been abducted and then retracting her story during questioning. Wilbanks has not spoken publicly since her disappearance and remains in seclusion.

On Wednesday, Wilbanks' attorney, Lydia Sartain, sent a statement to media outlets, including CNN.

"Jennifer asked that I convey her appreciation of the many prayers and statements of support she has received from countless individuals," Sartain said in the statement. "She is deeply regretful about the pain she caused her family, her fiance, her friends and the community who rallied to her aid.

"I believe Jennifer committed no crime. I understand and respect [Gwinnett County] District Attorney Danny Porter and his obligation to investigate this situation thoroughly. Jennifer hopes this experience will help her grow and heal and perhaps help others in similar circumstances. I look forward to working with her and her family."

Porter has said he is considering filing charges against Wilbanks, who failed to return home after telling her fiance she was going jogging. She called 911 four days later in Albuquerque with a false story about being kidnapped by a Hispanic man and white woman, police said.

She acknowledged buying a bus ticket a week before her journey and arranging for a taxi to an Atlanta bus station before she left on her jog.

Wilbanks could face a charge of making a false police report -- a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail -- or making false statements to authorities -- a felony that carries a maximum of five years' imprisonment.

The city of Duluth is considering asking Wilbanks for reimbursement expenses incurred during the search -- as much as $60,000.

A pastor at Wilbanks' church, the Rev. Thomas Smiley, said that Sartain would hold a news conference at the Gainesville church, Lakewood Baptist, at 1 p.m. Thursday.

He said he did not know if Wilbanks would be present or if she would speak if she did attend.

Calls for an apology intensified Tuesday, including one from the fiance's father, Claude Mason, a former mayor of Duluth.

"I hope that comes very soon," he said, adding that his son John still intends to marry Wilbanks.

Fernando Mateo, president of Hispanics Across America, a New York-based organization that advocates for Hispanic communities, called for an apology to the Hispanic population of the United States, and especially those living in Georgia and New Mexico, because she had falsely accused a Hispanic man of kidnapping her.

"The Hispanic community has been hurt enough," Mateo said. "She should apologize to us first, then her fiance and her family."

CNN's Mike Phelan and Charles Molineaux contributed to this report.


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