Meet the real 'Runaway Bride': Jennifer Wilbanks

Meet the real ‘Runaway Bride’: Jennifer Wilbanks

Megastar Julia Roberts is a fan favourite across the world. She has starred in iconic films like ‘Pretty Woman’, ‘Erin Brockovich’ and ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’.

Interestingly enough, her 1999 film ‘Runaway Bride’ seems to have inspired some real life events. In 2005 a woman named Jennifer Wilbanks left her then-fiancé John Mason days before they were meant to say ‘I do’, and her story of what happened is truly wild.

Wilbanks and Mason had planned a lavish affair, featuring a 28-member wedding party and over 600 wedding guests.

Jennifer Wilbanks and John Mason. Credit: Pinterest

It seemed like tragedy struck when the bride suddenly vanished without a trace in the days leading up to their wedding. Her disappearance sparked a nationwide manhunt, with family and friends expressing that Wilbanks is simply not the type to just run off.

It turned out her family was wrong.

A few days after her disappearance, Wilbanks called her fiancé on a pay phone and told him she had been taken hostage while out for a run. She alleged a couple had driven her from Duluth, Georgia to Albuquerque, New Mexico where they proceeded to sexually assault her in a van. Her kidnappers allegedly released her a few days later.

However, this harrowing tale was not true. Wilbanks later recanted her story once the FBI got involved, and admitted she had left Georgia willingly on a bus due to personal issues.

Her false abduction story earned Wilbanks two years of probation, 120 hours of community service and ongoing mental-health counselling. She also had to pay back some of the costs the sheriff’s office incurred while searching for her. Today reports that the search party cost the sheriff’s department $60 000.

Mason moved on from the ordeal and married a woman named Shelly Martin in 2008. Wilbanks appears to have gotten her happily-ever-after too. She has been in a long term relationship with a man named Greg Hutson since 2010.

Feature image: Pinterest

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