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5-2-05 That Pond, Two Kids and a Runaway Bride

Augusta Chronicle: “…Little Jonah Payne and his 2-year-old sister Nicole didn't just wander off Saturday. They were allowed to.


Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schulz: ``Miss Wilbanks was definitely a person in crisis.''


 May 1, 2005


That Pond, Two Kids and Runaway Bride


By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.


Along with most citizens, I grow weary of criminal rights and defenses when it comes to heinous crimes.  Too often, some perpetrators do not get what they deserve.


However, some situations are just not criminal no matter how bad they are.  Two such situations occurred in Georgia in the last two weeks: the children who drowned in an oxidation pond in Warren county and the Runaway Bride from Duluth.


What happened to those children was terrible.  I agree with the Augusta Chronicle on April 28 that maybe DFCS has some culpability in the matter.  There were signs of neglect.  However, in listening to the family interviews, I feel the parents are cognitively challenged.   Being Dumb is not a crime and no prosecution is warranted in this case.  Avoidance of like situations is the better choice.


In the Runaway Bride situation, it was bad for the family, fiancé, police and Jennifer Wilbanks and she and they will live with this nightmare for the rest of their lives.   I do not think she needs prosecution.  The woman is obviously under a lot of stress and needs help and understanding and not suits or harsh condemnation.  After all, she just left.  She had no control or any idea of the media circus that would result.  If one puts oneself in her situation, after learning of the mass media hysteria, then she would be even more confused.


Her biggest mistake was planning a 600 invitation wedding with 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen for a couple who have been cohabiting.


The hysteria and circus atmosphere was promoted and encouraged by the national media.  They would like to keep something going in both cases because of “air time”.


We should be concerned about real crime and not actions of intellectually or emotionally challenged persons.  Sometimes, mercy and understanding should be part of justice.  The parties have already paid a horrible price.


The Augusta Chronicle



April 28, 2005             EDITORIAL


That pond was avoidable


Little Jonah Payne and his 2-year-old sister Nicole didn't just wander off Saturday.

They were allowed to.

In fact, acquaintances say it was not at all uncommon for the 3-year-old boy and his sister to be wandering down the street alone. Neighbors apparently routinely had to return the kids to their mobile home.

Indeed, authorities say the kids had wandered off Saturday, and were returned by a caring neighbor, just two hours before their fatal romp to their drowning in a nearby sewage pond.

Can you say negligence? Child endangerment?

Making matters worse, if that's possible, is the fact that the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services had been mentoring and monitoring the family since February 2003.

And DFCS's weekly visits to the trailer had come as recently as the Wednesday before the tragedy.

"There was no indication of any problems," says a DFCS spokesman.


The children in question are chronically left to wander the streets - ages 3 and 2! - and, when they're returned home, they live in such squalor that the smell of urine and feces permeates the air, according to a family acquaintance.

Pray tell us, DFCS: At what point does it become a "problem" in your view?

We fully understand that cases of neglect and abuse are as thorny an issue as you will find. Parents can be as territorial as chained-up pit bulls, making it difficult and quite unpleasant to work with them, much less trying to pull the kids out of the home.

And when the parents seem to appreciate the help - as the parents in this case reportedly did, to no avail - that only encourages DFCS to keep the kids in the home.

In addition, the area of neglect is even thornier than abuse: Signs and effects of abuse are most often more apparent than cases of chronic neglect. And what neglect is, exactly, can be more easily debated than the definition of abuse.

But come on. Two toddlers, ages 3 and 2, repeatedly being allowed to wander off? And living in filth?

We must, of course, reserve the vast majority of our collective angst for the parents themselves. Mother Lottie Kain's negligence was particularly gross and wanton, considering all the help she had received. The couple's pain is no doubt great, but also was quite easily avoidable with a minimum of care and concern.

All children need to be watched, but toddlers are especially vulnerable. They're freshly mobile; they're the polar opposite of worldly; and their curiosity and wanderlust are nearly impossible to contain. This is why low-lying kitchen cabinets are child-proofed, gates are put up at stairwells and medicines have caps that give even Harvard-educated adults fits.

But no amount of technology or traps can substitute for good, old-fashioned supervision.

5-1-05 The Runaway Bride Circus


      WDUN 550 Radio



May 1, 2005


Gwinnett County DA: Wilbanks may still face charges


DULUTH - On what was to be her wedding day, Jennifer Wilbanks wore not a white veil but an orange towel over her head to prevent the media from taking her picture. Instead of being led down the aisle by her father, she was led by police to an airplane that flew the runaway bride home.

Now officials say the 32-year-old woman's cold feet may have gotten her in hot water. On Sunday, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter vowed to look into whether she violated the law by reporting a crime that didn't exist.

Wilbanks initially told authorities she was abducted while jogging but later disclosed she took a cross-country bus trip to Albuquerque, N.M., to avoid her lavish, 600-guest wedding.

Porter said Wilbanks could face a misdemeanor charge of false report of a crime or a felony charge of false statements. ……..
Meanwhile Sunday, members of Peachtree Corners Baptist Church, …… said prayers and expressed concern for Wilbanks and her fiance, John Mason, who did not attend services Sunday morning……
``Number one, we are so thankful that Jennifer has been found,'' Horner told the congregation. ``Number two, I want to publicly thank all of you who prayed and you who went to Duluth to be with the family.''

An FBI spokesman said Saturday that Wilbanks apparently made a sudden decision to flee her looming wedding and did not realize hundreds of people were looking for her. But he also noted she cut her hair to avoid being recognized.

Porter said he would speak on Monday to police in Albuquerque, where Wilbanks turned up late Friday and called her fiance and 911 to report that she had been kidnapped.

By all accounts, authorities in Albuquerque befriended the woman.

Wilbanks boarded her plane wearing a new FBI hat, blazer, polo shirt and pants and carrying a new tote bag and teddy bear, a gift from the aviation police chief. She flew first-class and said she planned to name the bear ``Al,'' for Albuquerque.

``Law enforcement is really making a major move to deal with people in crisis,'' Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schulz said Sunday. ``Miss Wilbanks was definitely a person in crisis.''

But the Gwinnett County district attorney noted that vast law-enforcement resources were used to look for the missing bride……..

But Porter said Wilbanks could be charged for reporting her kidnapping story over the phone to Duluth Police Chief Randy Belcher