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Update, 5:04 p.m. ET: A few minutes ago I spoke to someone who is close to John Mason — the fiancé of the "runaway bride." John was flown to New York City last weekend by a book publisher who is offering a book deal to John and Jennifer. John is "very interested" in the book deal and likely to sign a contract. The book would be about forgiveness and redemption.
I have posted today some pictures taken by our producer George Szucs when he was in Idaho (search) last week (click on the links in the photo box above.) The pics give you a bit of a different perspective of the crime scene and there are some behind the scenes pics of the father of the missing children, Geraldo Rivera, Mark Furhman, our crew, etc. I figure since I wanted to see them so will you. A camera pointing at a correspondent reporting gives you some information, but I think behind the scenes pics gives you different information. I am curious about this story and what happened... and can tell from the e-mails I read daily, so are you! (For some reason, I think those two missing kids are alive. Usually I am pessimistic but this time I am not pessimistic... I hope I am right.)
Friday I hope to post some pictures from our interview of Senator Bob Dole (search) at the World War II Memorial. We had to tape the interview because the Senator is headed to Russia and could not do the interview live. What we will do is "drop in" the taped segment in our live show. It was interesting wandering around the WWII monument with Senator Dole, a war hero from WWII. He was mobbed by tourists who were thrilled to see him. He was gracious when students came running up to him and he stood in many pictures with many of them. As we walked away from the memorial after the interview I asked him if he was glad to be out of the Senate as they battle the issue of judicial nominations. He said, "I hear about it at home every night" and laughed. His wife Elizabeth is, of course, the U.S. Senator from North Carolina so yes, he does hear about the Senate every night.
You must read the last paragraph of Laura Ingle's note (E-mail No. 12) below. Sometimes being in court is like being back in grade school — you get punished. See below...
E-mail No. 1
I initially thought the shame and humiliation of being labeled the runaway bride was sufficient punishment for Jennifer Wilbanks. I changed my mind.
After hearing about her shoplifting history and the story she made up about be raped, etc., I think it is appropriate for her to face some other punishment.
Rather than going to jail, she should have to do some sort of community service work, like picking up litter on the highways, or whatever similar work they have people do in Georgia. Since she didn’t volunteer to enter a rehab program after three shoplifting arrests, she probably did so this time only as an attempt to avoid criminal charges and garner public sympathy.
If she ends up having to reimburse the City, her parents will probably pay the bill, so she won’t learn anything from it.
Question: Do you know if her fiancé and his family knew about her shoplifting history before they became engaged, or was this all a revelation to them?
E-mail No. 2
I feel she should be punished in some way such as house arrest, community service and definitely she should be required to get professional help and also some payback. I do not think we should waste a jail cell on a non-violent person while sex offenders are roaming our streets.
Searching for Jennifer took a lot of resources and a message needs to be sent to others that may think this is a cute trick to play.
E-mail No. 3
Greta, I am thrilled Jennifer Wilbanks won't go away. Happily it's been a source of amusement since her lie was exposed. When she was first "abducted" I was sickened that another young woman may have fallen victim to a horrific fate. When she was found alive I was overjoyed that there was a happy ending. That night I fell asleep while you where first to arrive at the fiance's home. When I awoke in the morning I learned it was all a ruse. I LOVED IT! This is the stuff that makes news worth watching. Jennifer Wilbanks is less of a nutcase than she is just a naughty, naughty girl. She has been in trouble before and she will be again. Mark these words, when this story and indictment is said and done and she has been "rehabilitated," there will come a day Jennifer Wilbanks will cross the newswire again. She will be picked up for something illegal, and I will be thrilled.
Your loyal viewer,
E-mail No. 4
I would agree that after the first, maybe even the second arrest for shoplifting, some consideration might be given to this very mixed up woman, but not after the third shoplifting arrest. No consideration should be given to the uncaring, selfish behavior she has displayed towards her parents, future family and others involved.
Someone needs to "slap her hands" and make her accountable for her actions. Jennifer should have to pay the money that inevitably her parents will have to pay to "bail her out again." I keep seeing her Mother's sad, crying face when they thought she was abducted. Shame on Jennifer!
An individual doesn't get this "mixed up" over night. Her family has probably dwelt with this situation for some years. It is now time for Jennifer to be accountable for the emotional and monetary damage she has created. I believe it is called Hard Love!
A little court-mandated therapy certainly could not hurt her and would give her parents a much-needed break.
Love your show, Greta.
E-mail No. 5
I'm surprised and disappointed that Jennifer Wilbanks has been indicted. I'm appalled that we will spend money prosecuting a person for this so called offense. I'm not defending her — but why make matters worse and spend even more taxpayer money. Regarding requiring her to pay back the county (or City of Duluth) for the $40,000 spent on the search for her, I suspect that the Mason family, which is a very prominent and philanthropic family, has contributed much more that this to their community over the years. If the public knew that, perhaps they would back off this "payback" demand.
Social Circle, GA
E-mail No. 6
The Georgia officials are looking more and more stupid every day. They got caught up in the nonsense over the search for her and taken in by the media doing a number on the latest sensational story. If anyone should pay I'd suggest the media (FOX included) pay as they made a bundle off this story. The D.A. is just upset that he got took.
Thank heavens our Albuquerque police had the common sense and good judgment not to get so carried away. Georgia should follow their lead.
E-mail No. 7
I have been reading the different messages and regardless whatever one says, this it is not just about her. It is about white women always getting to use their race card. When I say that I mean, when a white women does something wrong and to get the suspicion off of her she blames either a black man or, in this case, a Hispanic man. What about the Hispanic community? Is no one upset that she claimed a Hispanic man kidnapped her? Yeah, no one was looking for any Hispanics but can you imagine if they were looking for Hispanic men, how many they would have pulled over and questioned? No one ever thinks about that and to this date she has not to my knowledge apologized to the Hispanic community. This is not just about her running away, it is about the huge mess she could have caused to the Hispanic community by lying on them like she did.
E-mail No. 8
It seems that we are using incarceration far too often in situations where other consequences are more appropriate and beneficial, not only to the individual, but to society in general. She should pay restitution for the expenses spent on her behalf and then do some hefty community service.
E-mail No. 9
I'm with punishing Jennifer because of her history with shoplifting. For me it begs the question, "How many other crimes has she committed, but have gotten away with?" It's not likely that every time she shoplifted she was caught. I'm wondering if she's up to her eyeballs in debt. She said so herself she wanted to get married. I'm curious as to what she was really running from. Perhaps putting her behind bars isn't appropriate, but maybe it is. She could very well be a pathological liar or a sociopath. Again, the shoplifting throws me.
E-mail No. 10
You know Greta, about the runaway bride… if she has to pay back for the search, then what about the lady that left her oven on and started a fire? Should she have to pay the fire dept for the time and to the city the water? Or the candle that was left burning? Or the curling iron left on? When does it stop? Years ago I called the police because my seven year old disappeared, to go give his dad a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich as he fixed the car about three blocks away. They searched for him and found him, lunch box in hand. But, obviously it was my fault... he was my responsibility. Searching is part of the job. Runaway just really wanted to do just that! RUNAWAY! Anybody ever been there?
I don't think I've ever seen such self-righteousness as I have seen lately! God help the jaywalker!
E-mail No. 11 — note from Jim Hammer in the Jackson trial in California:
Trial Note — May 25, 2005
Today’s headline was no doubt "Defense rests in Jackson case." At that point it seemed as though we had heard it all, right? Well, along comes the D.A. in his rebuttal case and recalls Jesus Salas to the stand. He was the Neverland house manager at the time of the alleged 2003 molestation. He had earlier testified about bringing wine to Jackson’s suite one night, but added that he also brought soda, somewhat undercutting the suggestion that Jackson was serving the boys wine.
Today, the D.A. asks him about Jackson’s drinking during this time and he tells the jury that Jackson was "intoxicated" ON AVERAGE four or more times a week while the accuser was staying at Neverland (Feb-March 2003). What’s more, he said that the accuser and his brother spent 90 percent of the nights IN Jackson’s bedroom. Do the math. On average it means that Jackson is in his bedroom suite, WITH these boys, INTOXICATED for weeks. This image is devastating to Jackson’s defense team’s argument throughout this trial that Jackson’s conceals his drinking from his and other kids by drinking out of a diet Coke can. According to this witness, he saw Jackson so drunk on three different occasions during this time that he thought Jackson was a danger to his own children.
The image of an intoxicated Jackson, night after night in his bedroom with these boys sleeping in his bed, brings this case right back to the heart of the D.A.'s argument that Neverland was not simply some idyllic innocent getaway for Jackson and children, but instead was a place where an intoxicated Jackson spent night after night in bed with little boys and that he may have plied these same little boys with booze and then molested them. Just when you thought it was over and that we had heard all of the evidence in the case, this picture emerges. On cross, Mesereau tried to make light of it, asking the witness if he had ever been drunk in front of his own kids. The audience in the court laughed and the witness said “Yes,” he had. But as I watched the jury, not one of them was laughing. They were taking notes, eyeing the witness.
If I were Jackson, I would be a lot more worried tonight than I have been through much of this trial. Stay tuned…
Santa Maria Courthouse
E-mail No. 12 — from Laura Ingle. Pay attention to the last paragraph of her note!
Subject: Laura note
The defense rests! Those words shot through the courtroom like a cannon just before 11 a.m. Santa Maria time. I was in the "listening room" when it happened, and all the reporters were on the edge of their seats as Chris Tucker finished his testimony as the last defense witness. As the magic words were spoken, reporters rushed for the door in a stampede, all turning on their phones to tell their "desks" and go live ASAP. More on Chris Tucker in a moment, but first...
Jay Leno's jokes are still rippling through this courthouse. The "Tonight Show" host testified yesterday about talking to the teenage accuser on the phone. When Leno left the witness stand he joked to the jury, "Tonight, we have Renee Zellweger on the program." When he said that, it was a joke plugging his show, but he said it to jurors. I couldn't help but wonder, if the jurors did turn on his show, and we all know Leno talks about this case in his monologue.... wouldn't that equal jurors watching coverage of the case? They have been told not to read, listen to, or watch anything that has to do with the trial. Last night, Leno went to town about being a witness. He didn't talk about the testimony (as ordered by the judge) but did joke about other things. Leno pulled out a gavel on his show, saying he took it from the judge as a souvenir. This morning, the judge walked in and looked around his bench and said "Hey, where's my gavel?" He was playing… but the courtroom laughed... including the jurors.
Chris Tucker finished his time on the stand as the defense's last witness. Tucker has explained that he started getting suspicious of the accuser and his family when they were all on a trip to Miami early Feb. 2003. He says he told Michael, "Mike, somethin' ain't right" when they were all together in Florida, because of the way the accuser was calling M.J. "dad" and the way the accuser was calling Tucker his "brother." He said he just got a bad feeling in his spirit about the whole thing. Tucker told jurors, the teenage accuser was "really smart, and was cunning at times." Example: Tucker said the boy (who had cancer) would say things like, "Chris, let me have this, I don't feel good." On cross exam, Tucker lost his memory on most all dates and times relating to the case. He sounded evasive and combative. Couldn't remember making phone calls to book a charter jet to take the accuser's family to Miami, couldn't recall the years some of his movies were made.
I mentioned I was in the "listening room" for all this. Usually I am in the courtroom for the second session of the day, but there were about 20 reporters who were "punished" by two who wouldn't get off the phone in time for us to go inside the courtroom. The bailiffs have us separated into two holding areas. The first set of reporters have to get inside in time, so that the second batch can be cleared to go through security before the jury is seated at the break. If you don't make it in time, the double doors slam shut, and we are locked out. Judge Melville won't let people come into the courtroom once a session starts. Two reporters in the first holding area were on their phones according to out media pool producer, and they didn't get of in time to be cleared, which put those of us in batch number two in danger of being locked out — which is what happened!
Finally, a viewer sent me this news article from WDHN, an ABC news station:
Search For Ozark Woman Coming Up Empty
(Air Date: 5/21/2005)
It's been a month since Angelea Tess Spellman was last seen and now police are renewing their call for any information on her whereabouts.
Ms. Spellman was last seen in Ozark near Hillcrest Baptist Church April 27th. Her husband has reportedly told authorities that his wife jumped from the car and ran into a wooded area. John Spellman has already spent 18 years in prison for an unrelated murder but was released after it was determined he may not have been guilty of the crime.
Family members have said publicly that suspect John Spellman of killing his wife but Spellman denies such allegations and has not been arrested by police.
Anyone with information regarding this case is urged to contact the Ozark Police Department at (334) 774-5111 or the Brundidge Police Department at (334) 735-3333.
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