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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 June, 2005, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
US runaway bride sells her story
Jennifer Wilbanks arriving at court on 2 June
US TV network NBC won a scramble for the first full interview
A US woman who fled days before her lavish wedding, then faked a story of abduction and sexual assault, has finally said "I do" - to a movie deal.

Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, who sparked a costly police search when she vanished from her Georgia home, has sold media rights to her story to a New York firm.

The move angered local officials, who have only been paid back for about one-third of the cost of the search.

Ms Wilbanks was fined and given community service in court on 2 June.

Theirs is an unexpected and compelling story of love and forgiveness that has taught me a thing or two
Judith Regan
Agent and publisher
Mr Mason has stood by his fiancée and accompanied her to court, where she admitted making a false statement.

Now the couple have signed an exclusive deal with New York "superagent" Judith Regan. Media reports said the deal was worth $500,000 (£274,000), although this has not been confirmed by the firm.

At the hearing Ms Wilbanks apologised for her disappearance but only promised to pay overtime costs incurred during the search.

'Shame'

She has not yet offered to repay the whole cost of the search, totalling almost $43,000 (£24,000).

Jennifer Wilbanks at Albuquerque airport
Wilbanks covered her face as police brought her home
The deal has angered local officials in the couple's home town of Duluth, Georgia.

"You want something printable?" Mayor Shirley Lasseter asked a local reporter when asked about the deal.

"I think it's a shame that anybody could profit from this," the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports her saying.

Ms Regan shot to prominence publishing books by disc jockeys Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern.

Last year she published the autobiography of porn actress Jenna Jameson, entitled How To Make Love Like A Porn Star.

Ms Regan's deal with Ms Wilbanks and Mr Mason covers book publishing and eventual movie rights, reports say.

"I am looking forward to developing the scripted project with Wilbanks and Mason," Ms Regan said in a statement.

"Theirs is an unexpected and compelling story of love and forgiveness that has certainly taught me a thing or two."

Psychiatric treatment

Ms Wilbanks disappeared from her home in Duluth on 26 April, four days before her lavish wedding was scheduled to be attended by 600 guests.

Her disappearance provoked concern, then derision. She told her fiancé she was going out for a run, but did not return.

She resurfaced three days later in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she told police that she had been abducted and sexually assaulted.

That story fell apart under questioning, but Ms Wilbanks maintained that her disappearance was not connected to her impending wedding.

Her family have said that she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment during her disappearance.

At court on 2 June Ms Wilbanks was ordered to continue seeking treatment.




SEE ALSO:
Runaway bride fined for fake tale
02 Jun 05 |  Americas
Runaway US bride faces jail term
25 May 05 |  Americas
Runaway bride apologises for hoax
06 May 05 |  Americas
Apology call to US runaway bride
01 May 05 |  Americas


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