Ga. Bride-To-Be's Family Announces Reward
By KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press Writer
DULUTH, Ga. - Police halted their search for a missing bride-to-be on Friday, saying they had "turned over probably every leaf in the city."
The announcement came minutes after the family of 32-year-old Jennifer Carol Wilbanks announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to anyone responsible for her disappearance.
Wilbanks, whose wedding is planned for Saturday, has not been seen since she went out for her nightly run Tuesday in this Atlanta suburb.
Police have searched for miles in the wooded areas around the home she shared with fiance John Mason but said Friday the job was done.
"We have searched what can be searched. We have exhausted our manpower and turned over probably every leaf in the city," Police Chief Randy Belcher said.
The only lead at this point, he said, was the strands of hair found Thursday that appear to be similar to Wilbanks'. The hair was being tested, he said.
"We have nothing at this point to show that there has been a crime committed," Belcher said.
Mason appeared with Wilbanks' family, who said he had passed a polygraph test. Police said the test was conducted privately and that they want to conduct their own test.
Mason did not speak with reporters. His lawyer has requested that the test be videotaped, which Belcher said no law enforcement agency "that's worth anything" will agree to do.
Belcher said Mason was continuing to cooperate.
It was Mason who reported Wilbanks missing Tuesday night, saying she left with only her radio and the clothes she had on. Police found her keys, cash, credit cards and identification in the couple's home on a tree-lined street close to the town square.
Police Chief Randy Belcher said investigators took three computers from the home and were reviewing e-mails.
Officers who searched Wilbanks' neighborhood were also testing several sweat shirts for any connection to the case, though the police chief seemed doubtful. "We've picked up pieces of clothing all over," he said.
Authorities said they considered the case a criminal investigation, but police have given mixed signals about whether they believe Wilbanks may have gotten cold feet about the wedding.
Maj. Don Woodruff said authorities did not believe Wilbanks was a runaway bride. But under questioning from reporters, 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?"
Wilbanks and Mason had planned a big ceremony, with 600 invitations mailed out and 14 pairs of bridesmaids and groomsmen in the wedding party, said Mason's mother, Vicki.
Melinda Larson, a friend of Mason's, said the guests will go to the church Saturday, either to pray for Wilbanks or to attend the wedding, if she is found. But Larson was befuddled at the lack of evidence.
"Right now there are no new leads, and it's been 48 hours. It's very baffling."
Fiancee John Mason: Guilty or Not guilty!