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New engagement: Runaway bride cuts grass

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- For cutting out of town, runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks is cutting lawns.

Wearing an orange community service vest and a baseball cap with the slogan ''Life is good," Wilbanks did part of her court-ordered community service yesterday for lying to police after she ran off days before her wedding.

''I'm doing well. . . . I'm getting there," a perspiring Wilbanks told a throng of reporters and photographers after her mower died out in the tall, wet grass. ''I need to get back to work. I don't want to get into trouble."

But her mower kept sputtering out, prompting her to yank repeatedly on the pull cord to get it started again. After the eighth time, she let out a huge sigh.

In all, Wilbanks was ordered to perform 120 hours of service; she has completed 24 by scrubbing toilets in probation offices, picking up trash, 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, who has cleaned bathrooms and offices with Wilbanks while working off his own sentence of 80 hours of community service for an offense he declined to disclose.

When he first met Wilbanks, Powell was one of the few who had no idea who she was.

''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?' "

Wilbanks, 32, disappeared in April four days before her scheduled wedding with 600 guests invited.

Hundreds of police officers and volunteers, including members of the wedding party, searched for her for three days.

She called her fiance, John Mason, from Albuquerque early on the morning of their wedding day, claiming to have been abducted and sexually assaulted. She soon recanted her story, saying she fled because of personal issues.

Wilbanks pleaded no contest in June to telling police her phony story.

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