Runaway Bride Had Sticky Fingers

The attorney for runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks (search) previously prosecuted her for shoplifting nearly a decade ago and, in another case, Wilbanks served jail time for shoplifting, according to court records.

Lydia Sartain (search), Wilbanks' current attorney, prosecuted her in 1996 for allegedly shoplifting $1,740 in merchandise from a Gainesville mall, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, citing court records.

Sartain, who was then Hall County district attorney, dropped the felony charge after the then 24-year-old completed a pretrial diversion program, which included 75 hours of community service and restitution, according to court records.

Sartain did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages requesting comment.

In a separate case, Wilbanks served two weekends in jail after pleading guilty to shoplifting (search) $98 of merchandise from a store in April 1998, according to court records. A municipal court judge sentenced her to probation, a $400 fine and 50 hours of community service.

The 32-year-old Wilbanks touched off an extensive search at the end of last month when she vanished from her Duluth home four days before her scheduled 600-guest wedding, without leaving any clues that she had fled.

As it turned out, she had taken a bus to Las Vegas and then Albuquerque, where she called authorities with a story about having been abducted. She later broke down, saying she fled because of personal issues.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter is reviewing whether to charge Wilbanks with making false statements and Duluth officials would like her to perform community service and reimburse the city for the search costs, estimated at $60,000.

Porter said Sunday that he is still investigating the matter and has not yet made a decision. He also said he was aware of Wilbanks' previous shoplifting charges.

Also in 1996, Wilbanks was charged by police with misdemeanor shoplifting for allegedly taking $37.05 in merchandise from a Wal-Mart in Gainesville, Ga. That case was dismissed after Wilbanks completed "Project Turnabout," a six-week counseling program for shoplifters, according to court records.