This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 2, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Earlier today Sean spoke exclusively to Jennifer Wilbanks' (search) fiancé John Mason. He also spoke with her father, Harris Wilbanks, and the family pastor, Dr. Tom Smiley (search).
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Guys, thanks for being with us. John, how are you holding up?
JOHN MASON, FIANCÉ OF JENNIFER WILBANKS: I'm OK. Tired still. I haven't had a lot of sleep over the last few days. But I'm making it.
HANNITY: Not easy when the world's watching, is it?
MASON: No, it's not.
HANNITY: How's Jennifer?
MASON: She's safe. She's alive. She's back home with us. You know, she's not OK by any stretch of the imagination, but we're starting the process of — rehabilitation is the wrong word — but you know, we're looking for what to do next, I should say.
HANNITY: What is she telling you that happened? The pastor was just telling us for the first time she pretty much opened up last night a little bit. What did she tell you?
MASON: Dr. Smiley's probably better than I am to really just kind of go into that, so I'll let him.
DR. TOM SMILEY, FAMILY PASTOR: Well, it was very interesting that she just really was willing to open up. We had originally gone over to the house to really talk about whether or not we should do this kind of thing today.
And in the course of that conversation, I kind of sensed that she was really wanting to talk. And so it was fortunate that this family, just her mom or dad, stepdad and John. And we just sat there and talked.
She isn't crazy, Sean. I'm going to tell you that. You know, Jennifer is not crazy. But she does have some real specific issues that she's got to deal out and work out.
And we made a commitment last night. We talked for over two hours and in that conversation I asked her some very hard questions. And she responded very well. And she wants to get help. She realizes that she wants to make some changes in her life.
Several times she said, "I don't want this to be in vain. You know, I don't want what has happened to be in vain. I know a lot of people put forth a lot of effort. I know a lot of people were inconvenienced. I know a lot of people were put out. And I don't want it to be for naught."
HANNITY: Has she giving you any insight as to why she left? What happened to her? What was she feeling?
MASON: I don't know that she could ever really place a finger on it. She was scared. And I don't know that the wedding had anything to do with it. She was just — what would you — what kind of word would you use? I'm at a loss.
SMILEY: We talked about this last night. And you know, as hard as it is to understand — and I know people just can't understand it, Sean; they just can't — but as hard as it is to understand, this was not about the wedding. It was not about John. It was not about whether she wanted to get married.
She's not narcissistic. She's not selfish. She's not a spoiled brat. She just had some very specific issues that just caved in on her and she made an inappropriate response, like many of us have made inappropriate responses in our life. And it had massive consequences.
But I'm confident that she's going to get through it. She's going to grow by it. She loves John very much and she wants to be the full and complete person, mentally, spiritually and emotionally that she can be.
HANNITY: Did she give you any insight as to what that time away was like? Because she didn't have much money.
MASON: She was petrified, man. I want the world to know that she didn't just run off on a joyride to be going and having fun. I think one of the papers may have said she ran off to Vegas. Well, yes, she did end up in Las Vegas, but that wasn't her original destination. She didn't just say, "Hey, I'm going to run to Vegas to have a good time."
She bought a bus ticket just open-ended last week and a half ago, just in case that she couldn't handle anything else. And she got on that bus. She did get on the bus, and she left and went to Austin, Texas.
From Austin, she found out that with what money she had in her pocket, she could afford at trip to Vegas that would allow her another 30-something hours on a bus, which was the safest place for her to be. She couldn't walk the streets. Couldn't be in restaurants or anything. And on these buses, she had no idea what was going on.
HANNITY: Yes. But she slept on the bus?
MASON: Yes, what little she slept.
HANNITY: Had what, $40?
MASON: Right. Yes. She had a couple of hundred bucks I think and that's what she paid for the bus tickets with.
HANNITY: Wow. Did she have contact with anybody that you know of?
MASON: Not that I know of.
HANNITY: Was this like her? Did she keep things in a lot? Was she that type of person?
MASON: Yes. She's had a hard time really sharing deep, hurtful stuff. It's hard to say that. And that is not uncommon, is it Pastor? I mean, I've had issues with that in my lifetime that I've had to deal with and get through and allow God in to help me to sort things through.
HANNITY: She had 12 bridesmaids and she didn't tell a one of them.
MASON: Fourteen. Yes, 14.
HANNITY: And a big wedding — about 500, 600 invitations went out.
MASON: Yes, she just never has been good about talking about stuff inside.
MASON: And that's not an uncommon problem, is it?
SMILEY: No, it's not. And she really made some progress last night in doing that. I think from what all of us discussed...
MASON: It took a lot of guts, what she did.
SMILEY: ... with her mom or dad. And it's a great first step, and I think her countenance changed. Did you notice that? Her countenance changed. Her spirit changed as she was thinking, "You know what? I'm going to get well. I'm going to get better."
HANNITY: And she did cut her hair, though. Did she look a lot different?
MASON: I like her hair. She's got such a beautiful face.
HANNITY: Is it dramatically...
MASON: No. Not really.
HANNITY: You find out she's missing. Because you guys would jog at different times, which by the way is common, because I can't talk either when I jog. We were talking about that.
When you notice she's first missing, tell us what steps you went through, remind people? You started driving around looking for her.
MASON: Yes, yes. I waited — actually, it's funny, I'd forgotten this part of the story. And I don't think we've told it. I was watching the Braves game and I was talking to him on the phone as a matter of fact, because they were getting ready to blow another lead and they had the reliever in the ninth inning that was just giving up one base hit after another. Your boy Coles.
HARRIS WILBANKS, JENNIFER WILBANKS' FATHER: Yes.
MASON: And we were cutting up about that and then the Braves game finally got over and I was trying to get Harris off the phone, because it was like 10 at night, which is my bedtime normally, because I get up at 5 and go to the gym. At least I have been when I've been in honeymoon training.
And I finally got Harris off the phone, it was like 10:15, and I'm like, wait a minute. She ain't back here. Something's going on. So I said I'll give her till 10:30 and then I'm going to go start looking. And at 10:30, I walked out the door and drove around the neighborhoods where I could go and I didn't see her.
HANNITY: Went to the hospital.
MASON: I went back uptown again to the Town Green, the area where all the TV trucks are now, because that would have been a place where she maybe could have gone and just kind of hidden and and sat down on a bench or something and talked to herself or listened or just sat there and cried, or whatever. I didn't know at this point what — I was kind of going through all the possibilities in my head.
So I went there. Nothing. And then I ended up at the emergency room. And of course, you know, nothing there as well. Then I ended up calling my parents a little after midnight and they said call the police.
MASON: So I did.
HANNITY: What do you say to those that maybe aren't on the inside, they're just hearing some things, and say, there have got to be consequences for her actions?
MASON: I think she's dealing with the consequences right now. She's having to, in her mind, wonder what people are saying about her. And I can't imagine that's real good or real easy to deal with. That's got to be consequence enough to me. And then to have to deal with all the hurt and the pain that she has on the inside anyway.
HANNITY: When did you first notice, John, that you might be suspected? Because I think that's got to be one of the toughest parts of the story.
MASON: You know, it got me to thinking. All right. The cops have been around here like five or six times asking me the same story over and over again. I'd better be careful in what I say and how I say it.
So it was really sometime Wednesday night, the realization just kind of hit me. I wasn't real good after that. My mind was really worse than it was to begin with.
HANNITY: That's got to be hard. Here, you're missing your fiancée. You don't know what's happened to her. You don't know if she's alive or if something happened, if she's kidnapped.
MASON: Yes, and now I've got to deal with that. No, that wasn't easy. I've got to tell you, the first day was tough. Every time I saw something on TV and somebody would talk about the lie detector test or why isn't he going to take this other one? What's his problem? You know, if he's innocent, why does he have to have these conditions and all this of stuff?
And I mean, I started hollering and screaming. I walked out in the front yard, yelled at my mother, yelled at my lawyer, the guy that was trying to help me through all this that really did a fantastic job. Yelling at whoever I could get that was close to me at the time. I mean, I was really upset.
HANNITY: That's a lot of pressure that you were under.
MASON: Yes. I don't care. I didn't handle it right. And Allen, my pastor, who we had on TV a lot this week and one of our deacons, Will Barnett, they grabbed me aside and said, "Come on, let's go back here and talk."
And they got me on the back deck and we just kind of talked it out. They let me yell at them, and then we prayed.
HANNITY: My pastor doesn't let me yell at him.
MASON: Yes, Allen's a special breed of cat, man. He's been my rock this week. And we prayed and then a couple other deacons came in, went back in my office and we prayed some more. And by about Thursday afternoon on through the end of this, I've had this peace that — what's the verse in Philippians?
SMILEY: The peace that passes understanding.
MASON: The peace that passes understanding.
SMILEY: All things work together for good with them that love the Lord.
MASON: And that one.
HANNITY: You know, you're going to look back on this thing and when you put it in a time capsule, sort of, the day before your wedding, you're taking a lie detector test.
HANNITY: And negotiating to take another one because the police want to verify theirs. When you thought about your wedding day, you didn't think about that.
MASON: No. I mean, I was supposed to be in St. Lucia right now.
HANNITY: Walk us through the process of that. When you sat there for that lie detector test, what was going through your mind?
MASON: Oh, man, I was mad. I was mad that I had to leave the house. Because that's where I felt safest, was in my rooms or in my kitchen or on my back deck, because I had my friends and family, my church family and Jennifer's family there with me. It was a time of upliftment at different times. It was really a safe haven, I guess is the right word.
So having to leave that, that didn't help. Just leaving the house, No. 1, I got mad. Just having to leave the house. I was mad at the lawyer for making me go do the lie-detector test. I was mad at my parents for driving me there. I was mad at the guy giving the lie-detector test, because that's what he did for a living. And I was just mad at the stupid test because I had to do it. You know, I was just angry. So angry.
HANNITY: But you passed it.
MASON: Yes. I didn't have any reason not to pass it.
HANNITY: No, I understand, but you may be thinking, "Uh-oh, I'm mad and I'm emotional. Maybe this thing's not going to be..."
MASON: I was at peace when I did it, though. I mean, these guys here knew when I was going.
HANNITY: What kind of questions were they asking during that test?
MASON: Pretty easy ones. I mean, it was: Did you have anything to do with Jennifer's disappearance? No. Do you know where Jennifer is right now? No. What else was it? Did you harm Jennifer? No. You know.
HANNITY: Yes. Then there was talk the police started talking to you, negotiating with you. What did you think when they wanted you to take another test?
MASON: I knew they would. I did not have a belief in me that they would be satisfied with the one that I had taken.
MASON: Just because they hadn't been satisfied with anything I told them so far, so why would they be satisfied with this test?
HANNITY: Did they let you know that they thought you were suspect?
MASON: No, they never said that, but they kept coming back to the house and dragging me to the FBI and the GBI and dragging me to a private room and asking me. I had nothing to hide. I could have talked to them right out there in the living room and told them the sequence of events for the 18th time how it went down. I mean?
HANNITY: There was one point where we heard you were negotiating the terms of it. You didn't want it videotaped. What was that all about?
MASON: No, I wanted it videotaped.
HANNITY: You did want it videotaped?
MASON: Right. Right. They didn't want to videotape it, which didn't make any sense to me. And I'm thinking, "Well, if you don't want it videotaped, what are going to do to me in that room that you don't want on video?
HANNITY: Here we're in a post-season Susan Smith world, a post Scott Peterson world. We're also in a post Richard Jewell world. And now we're in a post-John Mason world and a post-Elizabeth Smart world. Do you think people were too quick to start pointing the fingers?
MASON: Yes. Absolutely they were. And I understand this, and I understood this at the time. I just couldn't get by, I couldn't get it through to my heart and my head or visa versa.
Statistically, I was guilty, and I get that. But anybody that knew me or knows anything about me would know that that's just insane. And I understand the FBI and the GBI and all those people, they don't know me. But if they talked to anybody that was around me, they had to get some sense to know that of course we need to look at him, but I think we need to focus somewhere else.
HANNITY: Do you become self-conscious at a moment like that?
HANNITY: Like you're wondering if this person is suspecting me, did they really believe me? You really begin to think that way.
HANNITY: How hard was it for you? This is a guy that you trusted and then you saw the cloud of suspicion come on your future son-in-law?
WILBANKS: It was very difficult. Of course I love my daughter and I've come to love John and not only was John having to deal with his fiancée being missing, but he was being crucified by some of the media and that made pain even that much more.
HANNITY: In the deep corners of your mind, did you ever doubt him? Did you ever talk to him about what other people were talking about?
WILBANKS: I told him, I said, "John," I said, "You were the last one to see her alive. You are the fiancé, boyfriend, whatever you want to call it and you're naturally their first — suspect is not the right word." But I said, "As soon as they get you ruled out," I said, "they can go on to better things."
But he knew how the family felt. He knew there was never, never, never a doubt in my mind that John had anything to do this, never.
HANNITY: She never realized, in all of this, that the world was watching?
MASON: No, she had no clue.
WILBANKS: We asked her, I said, "Jennifer, how could you not see the TV?"
She said the bus station and the busses didn't have TVs on them and she said that she did look at a "USA Today" and didn't see anything about it. So I said to her, "How could you not known?"
HANNITY: What does she think of all that now?
MASON: She tried to watch a little bit of it when she first got back, but it wasn't real positive, so she turned off the TV and I don't know that she's looked at it since.
She wants the world to know that that's not her and she is very sorry and she's in pain. And she's a victim here, as well. She wants everybody to know that she's got some things that she's got to figure out.
HANNITY: Do you have any clues into that?
SMILEY: We talked, and I think it would be inappropriate for me to really go into details as to what she indicated some of those might be. But I will tell you this: They're very resolvable and they're not anything that no one else in this world has not ever experienced. And they're not something that someone that has specific and trained insights cannot help her with.
And I feel very positive about Jennifer. I left last night feeling very positive and very appreciative that she was willing to make the choices that she needed make to keep her relationship with John where it needed to be and with her family.
And she's very appreciative of this community. I mean, this is a great community. Duluth came together. And I would hope that the people that passed out brochures and passed out signs and the people who gave away food, that they weren't doing that for any reason other than they were genuinely concerned. And I think those people will now kind of back away a little bit and say, "You know what? If that were my little girl, I'd want her to have some space and some time."
And I'll tell you something else, Sean. But for the grace of God, there goes I. And I really think people will begin to understand that she is remorseful. She is concerned. She's not selfish. She really had some issues that she did not know how or wasn't equipped in how to deal with.
MASON: She's going to be willing to come in and talk, too. She just needs some space and some time. She just wants the whole world to know she's very, very sorry. And in time, she will talk about it.
HANNITY: Maybe you're going to think about eloping this time? We know she likes Vegas. I'm kidding.
My wife and I were watching the coverage this weekend and it was striking to both of us, and we're both glad that she's home safely, which is the key. But over the weekend that she's was supposed to wearing her wedding veil, she's wearing towel. You know, that's got to be hard for you.
MASON: It was and it wasn't, man. I mean, after all I've been through, we prayed that she'd be home safe. You know, Harris sat there on TV and he says, "You know, man, I really pray this is the runaway bride thing and we'd just get her back safe," and we got her back safe. And that's all we asked God to do, was to bring her back safe to us.
HANNITY: What did you think of the 911 tape when you heard that?
WILBANKS: I'm speaking not as a parent. To me, it sounded like a scared, scared young lady that reached the end of the road and needed help.
HANNITY: Have you talked to Jennifer and told her what it's like to be a suspect?
MASON: I've tried, but I can't really put it in words. Yes, I've got to be honest with you. We really haven't done a great deal of talking talking. We've just kind of just been for the last day-and-a-half just kind of been nice, just taking it easy.
HANNITY: A lot of people want to know the answer to this question, John. Do you still love her?
MASON: Absolutely. Just because we haven't walked down the aisle, just because we haven't stood in front of the 500 people and said our "I dos," my commitment before God to her was the day I bought that ring and put it on her finger. And I'm not backing down from that now.
HANNITY: Are you angry, hurt, embarrassed, annoyed, all the above? What do you feel?
MASON: I got to tell you man, I'm happy. She's come to the conclusion that she needs some help on some things. And if it took this to get her to it, man, praise God she's there. And we're going to get her some help. And we're going to get her, you know, right again.
HANNITY: On her flight back from Albuquerque, they gave a statement to some members of the press. I understand that, on the plane, she said she had spoken to her fiancé, that would be you.
HANNITY: You could not wait to see her. She says the wedding is not called off, it's just postponed.
HANNITY: Is that the situation?
HANNITY: You're still engaged?
MASON: Absolutely. Yes, the first thing I gave to her when I saw her was her diamond back.
HANNITY: Oh, you did?
MASON: Yes, I made sure she put it on.
HANNITY: How did she react to that?
MASON: She put it right on her finger.
HANNITY: What do you want people to know about your fiancée, that's still your fiancée, that maybe they don't know about her? I mean, if they didn't know her from this one event. I've talked to a lot of people that know her and they paint a very different picture of what I knew about her coming in here.
MASON: Sure. Man, she's awesome. You know, she just was scared. She has a lot of confusion and a lot of hurt for herself, I think. And she'll uncover a lot more of that as we get through to the next stages of our life.
But she's very loving, very caring, just loves people, little kids in particular. Her mom always says she was put on this Earth to be a mother. So you know, we're looking forward to that one day.
Just very gracious, she would welcome anybody into her home and take care of them, kind of, you know, Southern girl.
HANNITY: Now, she had just basically moved her stuff into your place.
MASON: Yes. Over the last months and weeks and whatever, she'd just kind of moved stuff down. And she would kind of started staying the night at the house. It was just convenience more than anything else.
Our relationship from that standpoint is still very pure. We have not broken the sanctity of marriage yet, if that's the right way of putting it. In God's eyes, our relationship is still very pure.
But we did sleep under the same roof from time-to-time and that has come up this week. And I know that that's been a question on a lot of people's minds. But we weren't technically living together.
HANNITY: You don't want people to judge her on this event?
MASON: Absolutely not, man. Ain't we all messed up? mean, haven't we all made mistakes?
HANNITY: The things I've done in life are a lot worse than that.
MASON: I've made some doozies too, man.
HANNITY: We're in your church right here, where we're doing this interview. And your faith is obviously something that's very, very important to you and your pastor. And I know it's important to her dad.
You know, is it OK to reevaluate a relationship after something has happened, while you're forgiving her?
HANNITY: Do you know what I mean by that?
MASON: Yeah, that's fine. You probably reevaluate your relationship all the time, I would imagine.
HANNITY: Would it be wrong to reevaluate if this is definitely what you want to do? You have no doubt in your mind you want to still get married, in other words?
MASON: Yes, absolutely.
MASON: Yes, I mean, I think some things need to happen first. And we need to talk about a few things and she needs some treatment, for lack of a better word.
HANNITY: But you don't seem concerned to me. Would you worry that this would be an indicator how she may deal with stressful situations, which we all know will come up in the course of a marriage?
MASON: Right. No.
HANNITY: Not at all?
HANNITY: You're the dad. Obviously she never reacted like this before. You're glad to have you're little girl home.
WILBANKS: Oh, I can't tell you how glad I am. Are we disappointed? Yes. Are we embarrassed? Probably so. But most of all, we're thankful. We're thankful she's home and safe, thankful that she's recognized that this is a new beginning. She's willing to get the help she needs to start. And hopefully, for the rest of our life, there's going to be nothing but good.
HANNITY: Does she keep things in as a kid? Is this a pattern?
MASON: Well, apparently, more so than what we thought. She's always been outgoing, runs that mouth a mile-a-minute.
HANNITY: She could be a talk show host?
MASON: Oh, man, she'd be good.
WILBANKS: As a parent, maybe I overlooked some things, some signs that I didn't recognize. And since this has happened, you know, I said, "Wait a minute, maybe I should have recognized it."
But maybe even though she talked a lot, she never said what she was really needed to say. I don't know.
HANNITY: She never mentioned any doubts about anything to you, or your wife, or any of her close fiends, or anything?
WILBANKS: No, not to me. None whatsoever.
HANNITY: What would you want people — because the world saw this one instance in her life. But yet she's a nurse, she's a marathon runner, she's a person that everyone I talk to says has a wonderful sense of humor.
WILBANKS: She would give you the shirt off her back. She's a wonderful, sweet, fun, fun, fun person. This is not the Jennifer that I want the world to know. If you knew her, you'd love her.
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