A man who went missing in 1990 after developing amnesia and who assumed a new identity for years in California has been ruled to be the once-presumed dead Winston Bright of the East Village.
Still going by his assumed named of Kwame Seku, the 69-year-old won the six-year-long legal battle to be declared his former self, with a court order entered on April 13 by Manhattan Surrogate’s Court Judge Rita Mella.
‘The court finds that Kwame Seku has established his identity,’ Mella wrote in her decision.
The order, however, is not what his wife, Leslie Bright, wanted to hear, who had been collecting his $300-per-month pension, due to her as the assumed survivor of the former telephone worker, since his presumed death in 2000.
However, Leslie has told the New York Daily News that Seku has decided not to pursue the pension for himself.
Kwame Seku, 69, who went missing in 1990 and assumed a new identity for years in California after developing amnesia has been ruled to be the once-presumed dead Winston Bright of the East Village; He is seen here (left) with his mother, Mary Bright, age 85
At the hearing on April 13, Seku’s mother, 85-year-old Mary Bright, testified that she knew instantly upon seeing Seku that he was her missing son, as he had maintained the same mannerisms, and his eyes looked exactly the same.
In addition to that, she said, his wit gave it away immediately.
‘He was always making jokes and things,’ she said. ‘He still had that sense of humor about him.’
Seku said that he was stricken with amnesia and found himself wandering the streets of San Diego with only a few dollars in his pocket and no idea who he was.
But after years of searching, he realized his true identity as Winston Bright, a New Yorker and father of three who vanished for no reason.
Seku, who adopted his current name after reading it in a magazine, built a new life in California but said he would occasionally remember fragments of his previous existence.
Leslie Bright is pictured above with her husband Winston when they married; She maintained that Seku was making up his claims, but has now admitted he is the same man
Winston Bright is pictured in a missing person’s poster issued shortly after he vanished in 1990
He found out about his missing person’s case online and, he claimed, realized that he was the man in question, despite the fact that a Manhattan court declared Bright dead in 2000.
Bright’s widow, Leslie Bright, searched for him for years before giving up hope that he was alive, and seeking the court declaration which allowed her to collect her husband’s pension from Verizon, with whom he had 20 years’ service.
Winston Bright went missing on October 12, 1990. Bright recalled her husband calling her up from work at lunchtime, and again once he was home. But he never arrived.
According to Seku’s claims, his memory around that time is a complete blank, and his first clear recollection is finding himself wandering in California.
Seku said he found out about his missing person’s case online and, he claimed, realized that he was the man in question, despite the fact that a Manhattan court declared Bright dead in 2000
A judge in California granted him a new identity. He qualified as a teacher and worked until his retirement, before remembering his past life, beginning in 2008.
He was on a trip to New York when he recognized a former acquaintance from a Jehovah’s Witness group he belonged to. That acquaintance then notified his former wife.
Seku first sought the aid of the New York court to affirm his identity so he could claim the Verizon pension for himself.
Seku had tried to overturn the declaration of death before, in 2012, and have himself recognized as Winston Bright, but the case was thrown out because he had no way to prove it.
But with current technology, Seku was finally able to provide blood tests comparing his DNA with that of his mother and his adult children, to prove he and Winston Bright are, in fact, the same person.
In an early hearing in the case taking place on October 17, 2014, Leslie Bright slammed Seku as a ‘scammer’ who never attempted to provide any proof.
‘I know if I had a family and I had amnesia, I would show them,’ she said. ‘He just expected us to believe it. I would have been shouting it off to the roof to my kids to let them know what happened.’
Her children appeared to back up her claims at that time.
Leslie Bright said on Thursday that she acknowledged Seku is, in fact, Winston Bright, but said she didn’t believe his amnesia claim because she hadn’t seen any medical records to prove he was afflicted with such memory loss.
Leslie said that Seku has since decided not to pursue claiming his pension, so she may be able to keep it.
Seku currently resides in California.
Seku has now successfully proven to the satisfaction of a a New York court that he is Winston Bright, a telephone worker whom a New York court declared dead in 2000