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Jilted bride gets national TV attention

Hall woman appeared on 'Today' this morning

POSTED: July 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.
/NBC

RoseMary Shell, right, and her attorney Lydia Sartain, left, on "Today."

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The case of the jilted bride has gone global.

Since RoseMary Shell was awarded $150,000 by a Hall County jury Wednesday after suing her ex-fiance for breaking off the engagement, the story, with a big boost from the Internet, has gained traction in the national and international news media.

On Friday, Shell and her lawyer, former Hall County District Attorney Lydia Sartain, were interviewed in NBC’s New York studios by "Today" show anchor Meredith Vieira. Vieira billed the interview as an "exclusive," though Shell and Sartain had previously spoken with The Times, WSB-TV and WXIA-TV.

The unusual case was first reported by The Times on Wednesday, and WSB-TV soon followed up. By Thursday, a Google
search of Shell’s name turned up dozens of Internet links to the story in some form. ABC News cited The Times’ coverage on its Web site, and CNN had a link to the WSB story on its regional news page.

On Friday a producer with "GMTV" — Britain’s equivalent of "Today" — said she was pursuing an interview with Shell for the show’s 6 million viewers in the U.K.

"We love those kind of quirky, ‘only in America’ stories," New York-based producer Carla Eberhardt said.

A six-man, six-woman jury sided with Shell after she sued ex-fiance Wayne Gibbs, claiming that he was liable for breach of contract when he broke off their engagement. Shell had left a $81,000-a-year job in Pensacola, Fla., and moved back to Gainesville after Gibbs proposed in October 2006. By March 2007, Gibbs called the marriage off for good. Shell now makes $31,000 at North Georgia College and State University and blamed Gibbs for her financial loss.

Sartain said by telephone Friday that she had been contacted by every major television network and several national publications. She said she thought when the case went to trial it might attract some local interest, but the large-scale media attention was unexpected.

"I think this is something that strikes a chord with people," Sartain said. "It’s something people talk about over lunch and over the water coolers."

Sartain is getting calls from some of the same news producers who reported on a former client, "Runaway Bride" Jennifer Wilbanks.

Wilbanks’ gained national attention in April 2005 when she disappeared from near her Duluth home, then called her fiance from New Mexico days later, claiming she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted. When it was learned that she had made up the story, Wilbanks was charged and later pleaded no contest. Wilbanks and her fiance called off their engagement and ended their relationship about a year later.

"I would guess the media attention was more intense then," Sartain said. "Really, this case has been treated more as a legitimate news story, a legal issue. I’ve been pleased with how the media has reported on this case."

Friday’s nationally televised interview included a long, close-up shot of the engagement ring in its rosewood box, with the "Gainesville Jewelry" logo prominently featured.

"We just loved it, we thought it was great," said Gainesville Jewelry sales associate Kim Hunter. "Our phone was ringing off the hook with people telling us they saw it on TV."

Sartain said she was uncertain how long her court victory would stay in the media limelight.

"Probably not long," she said. "It may be over by sundown Sunday night."



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