Sunday, May 01, 2005

No Criminal Charges to Be Filed???!!?

MSNBC.COM -- It was a familiar story... a woman (in this case, Jennifer Wilbanks, 32) leaves the house (to walk the dog, to go jogging) without her cell phone or wallet days before a major event (her due date, her wedding) only to disappear. We'd seen it all before. Everyone was mentally gearing up, getting all excited about the upcoming event. And then... she doesn't return. The guy (boyfriend, husband, fiance) calls the police. The community comes together to search, relatives appear on TV after cameras are stuffed in their face, pleading for the safe return of their daughter.

And the rest of the country sighs and says "Oh, no, not again," knowning the outcome will always be the same. The body is eventually discovered and after six years of what feels like foot dragging and obviousness to the obvious, the police finally charge Scott Peterson.

Only, this time, that was not the case. After leaving the house without her keys, wallet or cell phone, Jennifer Wilbanks got cold feet. But not in the normal sense, she went for broke. Or as my friend Kevin would say, she went f'ing gonzo. I cannot come up with strong enough words to describe the stupidity of this woman. I think everyone in the nation should get to slap this woman upside the head.

First, she somewhere comes up with enough money to have her hair cut, as well as money for a cross-country bus trip from Atlanta to Albuquerque (we'll leave the annoying spelling of this town as a possible future rant). But, to make matters worse, when she gets to Alberdirgy, she calls police and describes two men who abducted her and the blue van they were driving. The family is notified, celebrates, thanks police and the media and the community, many of the 600 wedding guests and the 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen who all participated in search. And then she admits it was a hoax, there was no kidnapping. (Because who would kidnap such a freaking nutcase?)

The family retreats into their home, embarassed and probably pretty ticked. In the first of a few parts of the outcome I really love, the step-father and an uncle are dispatched to Alderquirky to retrieve her and fly home. The family members, hopefully, busy with their lawyers drafting up new wills, adoption papers for the son-in-law and acquiring restraining orders to keep Miss Looney at least 500' away from them at all times.

I really feel sorry for the fiance. First, it's a major blow to his self-esteem. Second, he knows that even as her family comforted him, in the back of their minds, and in the forefront of the minds of the rest of the country, he was suspect numero uno. Third, where does he go from here? Do they make up? If so, does he have a life-long chore of making sure she hasn't cheeked her medication and that she has showed up for her counseling session? Or does he have to unwrap everything they've co-mingled, from family and friends to housing arrangements to probably banking stuff? I really feel sorry for this guy.

My favorite part of the article showed us something they never taught us in journalism class, but should have. You can write an article that's entirely factual but still insert so much opinion into it. They taught us in math that statistics can be completely manipulated, but they should teach a module on editorial manipulation in "straight" news story writing. Anyhow, this is how the article ended (this is copyright MSNBC, but they'll delete the story from their website in less than two months and I wanted to preserve it):

Ryan Kelly, owner of the Park Cafe a few blocks from Wilbanks’ house, which gave out coffee and sandwiches to searchers, said he was glad Wilbanks was alive and healthy.

“But that being said, this is one of the most selfish and self-centered acts I’ve ever seen. We saw her parents, and you could see the anguish in their eyes. It was terrible,” he said.

“I don’t care where you are — unless you’re in the Amazon rain forest, you’d know everybody was out looking for you.”


No criminal charges are being filed. I think they should, not to mention she should be billed for the police's search and rescue services.
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