Hundreds in Atlanta suburb hunt for missing bride-to-be

Friday, April 29, 2005

The AssociatedPress

DULUTH, Ga. -- A 32-year-old bride-to-be vanished just days before her wedding, and more than 100 volunteers joined police Thursday in an all-out search of her wooded suburban neighborhood.

Authorities said they were considering the case of Jennifer Wilbanks a criminal investigation.

Wilbanks was reported missing by her fiance, John Mason, who said she disappeared Tuesday on her nightly jog in this Atlanta suburb.

Her keys, cash, credit cards and identification also were found in her home. Her fiance said she left with only her radio and the clothes she had on.

About 100 police officers took part in the search and brought out bloodhounds to help. They also searched a river nearby.

Police gave mixed signals about whether they believe Wilbanks, a hospital nurse, may have gotten cold feet four days before her wedding.

Maj. Don Woodruff said authorities did not believe Wilbanks was a runaway bride. But under questioning from reporters, police chief Randy Belcher later 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?"

Belcher said Mason had told them he would decide today whether to take a polygraph test.

Mason and Wilbanks were to be married Saturday in what was expected to be a big bash, with 600 invitations sent out and 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen, said Mason's mother, Vicki.

"She was so in love. The wedding is huge. It's the talk of the town. Everybody knows her and was so excited," said Killie McCauley, who went to high school with Wilbanks and joined the search.

McCauley and other friends and relatives have told police Wilbanks seemed happy and was looking forward to the wedding.

Friends on Thursday gathered at the home Wilbanks shares with her fiance on a tree-lined street close to the town square. They brought food to share and hugged each other as police kept others at a distance.

McCauley described the former high school track runner and cheerleader as an "avid matchmater" who introduced McCauley to her future husband. She said Wilbanks was looking forward to a future that included children.

"She's just such a caring person. Being a mother would be her ultimate," she said.

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