Runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks strapped on her sneakers yesterday - not to bolt from the altar, but to put her best foot forward as she paid for her crimes.
The jail-dodging jilter donned her athletic footwear for traction while pushing a lawnmower outside the Lawrenceville, Ga., municipal building - part of her community service for falsely telling cops she was kidnapped in April.
"I'm doing well," she said, as she took a short break after her mower stalled in the grass.
"I need to get back to work," she said a moment later, as she lifted her baseball cap, which read "Life is good," and wiped beads of sweat away. "I don't want to get into trouble."
Wilbanks wore a convict's orange jumpsuit to toil in the Georgia heat. She was apparently assigned to work with a lawnmower lemon - it continually stalled, forcing her to yank on the cord over and over to restart it.
At one point she had to pull the cord eight times, before she sighed with frustration in front of a gaggle of gaping photographers and reporters.
Wilbanks was sentenced to 120 hours of service, 16 of which she has already performed by cleaning probation offices and washing public vehicles.
"She's a hard worker. She didn't take advantage of anything. She did more work than most people," said 17-year-old Michael Powell, a fellow convict who has cleaned bathrooms and offices with Wilbanks.
Powell said she was one of the few people on Wilbanks' chain gang - or on the face of the Earth - who hadn't heard of her when he first met her.
"I said, 'Whoa, what's a girl like you having to do 120 hours of community service?' She said, 'I told a lie.'
"I said, 'It must have been a pretty big lie,' and she laughed, saying, 'Haven't you heard of the runaway bride?' "
The runaway bride captured headlines in April when she vanished shortly before her wedding and then falsely claimed she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted. In reality, she got cold feet and ran off to Albuquerque, N.M.
Hundreds of neighbors and police had launched a massive search for her.
In addition to the community service, Wilbanks was sentenced to two years' probation and ordered to pay $2,550 in restitution.
Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.