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Wilbanks: 'I was ... running away from myself'

Apologizes, says she's getting professional help

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Officials, residents react to the apology.

Jennifer Wilbanks' family pastor reads her apology.

The runaway bride's hometown may charge her family for the search.

So who exactly is Jennifer Wilbanks?
• Text of Wilbanks' statement
• Tips for saying 'I don't'
Are you satisfied with the apology from runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks?
Jennifer Wilbanks
John Mason

DULUTH, Georgia (CNN) -- Jennifer Wilbanks, the so-called runaway bride who went missing for days in advance of her wedding, issued a public apology through her family's pastor and said that she is getting professional help.

"Please may I assure you that my running away had nothing to do with cold feet nor was it ever about leaving John," wrote Wilbanks, in a statement read by the Rev. Thomas Smiley of Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville, Wilbanks' hometown.

"Those who know me know how excited I've been and how excited I was about the spectacular wedding we planned, and how I could not wait to be called Mrs. John Mason," her statement read.

Wilbanks said that she looked forward to the day when she would be strong enough to "speak for myself."

Wilbanks wrote, "At this time, I cannot fully explain what happened to me last week. I had a host of compelling issues which seemed out of control -- issues for which I was unable to address or confine."

The Duluth wedding had a guest list of 600, 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen. While Wilbanks' statement makes no mention of plans to marry Mason, both of them have separately said the marriage is still "on," albeit postponed.

"In my mind, it was never about timing," she said. "I was simply running away from myself and from certain fears controlling my life. Each day, I'm learning more about who I am and the issues that have influenced me to respond inappropriately.

"I am sorry for the troubles I caused and I offer my deep and sincere apology. I ask for John's forgiveness and that of his family." (Full statement)

While she apologized to her family, friends, community and "others I may have offended unintentionally," she did not specifically address the Hispanic man and white woman she made up as kidnappers in the story she first told authorities.

'Jennifer is not a criminal'

At least 150 volunteers joined police in searching for Wilbanks.

Her attorney Lydia Sartain told CNN earlier Thursday that her client intends to "make amends" for the money and time spent on the search.

Sartain says Wilbanks has admitted buying a bus ticket April 19 and calling a cab to take her to the Atlanta bus station on the night she left her Duluth home.

"[She was] feeling if she couldn't get through in the days to come, that she would have that, that she could leave on the bus," Sartain told CNN. "In her mind, she used that ticket at the last time she could."

Sartain added that "Jennifer is not a criminal."

"She did not act with criminal intent," she said.

Duluth Mayor Shirley Lasseter told CNN she received a message from Sartain offering Wilbanks' apology and desire to talk with city officials about restitution. Lasseter said she wasn't certain any formal negotiations had begun but said some form of community service -- utilizing Wilbanks' talents -- could be part of any deal.

Lasseter also said that it is important that the city receive some reimbursement for the $40,000 to $60,000 it spent on Wilbanks' search. She said she would provide Sartain with an itemized list of the city's expenses.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter has said he is considering a criminal case against Wilbanks, who 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.

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