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Jennifer Wilbanks appears in court in Georgia
Pool  /  Reuters file
“Runaway bride” Jennifer Wilbanks as she appeared in court in June 2005, when she pleaded no contest to one felony count of lying to police.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 6/22/2010 10:59:10 AM ET 2010-06-22T14:59:10

The infamous “Runaway bride” is cooing that love is lovelier the second time around. Jennifer Wilbanks, who sparked a police hunt and a media frenzy in 2005 when she lied about being abducted to escape her wedding day, has taken to Facebook to wax ecstatic about her new boyfriend.

Wilbanks, now 37, writes she’s been dating twice-married, twice-divorced landscaper Greg Hutson since early in 2009.

Calling Hutson “the fella,” Wilbanks said, “Everybody needs someone to love … I’m so glad I have that someone!” On her Facebook page, the couple pose in matching khaki-and-blue outfits, the New York Post reported.

Jitters, not kidnapping
Judging from her posts, it appears Wilbanks may have retired her track shoes when it comes to love. She was set to wed fiance John Mason on April 30, 2005, but four days before the fateful date, Mason reported Wilbanks missing when she didn’t return from jogging. Police in Duluth, Ga., and a volunteer force of 250 launched a manhunt for Wilbanks, even though police speculated right off the bat that Wilbanks’ disappearance might be “a case of premarital jitters.”

On April 29 — a day before her scheduled wedding — Wilbanks phoned Mason claiming she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted, and had just been released. Police traced the call to a pay phone in Albuquerque, N.M.

Video: ‘Runaway bride’ on what’s next Local authorities quickly found her and, under questioning, Wilbanks admitted she had run away to escape the pressures of her wedding.

Wilbanks became something of a folk anti-hero, inspiring an action figure and a grocery store condiment called “Jennifer’s High Tailin’ Hot Sauce.”

But police weren’t so amused: The city of Duluth had spent upward of $60,000 trying to locate her. She was sentenced to two years’ probation, 120 hours of community service, and she paid $2,250 in restitution to the local sheriff’s department.

The second time around
Since then, Wilbanks’ jilted fiance has found love again: He married Shelley Martin in March 2008 at his parents’ home in Duluth.

Now it appears Wilbanks has given her heart again as well. On her Facebook page, she says her new beau Hutson has given her “togetherness, friendship and most of all …. unconditional love.”

Video: ‘Runaway bride’ interview Still, Wilbanks has found that unconditional love doesn’t pay the bills. The New York Post reported she recently declared bankruptcy after racking up some $30,000 in credit card debt to stores such as Victoria’s Secret and Old Navy. Wilbanks is unemployed, and her only means of support is the $1,000 a month boyfriend Hutson doles out to her.

Wilbanks once dreamed of getting rich from her “Runaway bride” story. In 2006, she sued former fiance Mason for a chunk of the $500,000 he reportedly pocketed for a book deal to detail their story. Mason countersued, claiming emotional pain from being left at the altar, but both parties later dropped their cases. Mason’s book was never published.

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