'Dead' man missing for decades wants to be declared alive

SAN DIEGO - A San Diego man who disappeared for more than two decades said he suffered amnesia and now wants to be declared alive.

Winston Bright, a married father of three, was declared dead by a court 14 years ago. However, a local 65-year-old man who goes by the name Kwame Seku said he is Bright.

Seku has petitioned a New York court to declare him alive and has submitted a DNA test that he said proves his identity.

Bright walked away from work in New York City in October 1990, sparking a missing persons search.

He told 10News sometime in 1990 and 1991, he found himself wandering the streets of San Diego with no identification.

"I was lost, confused and frightened. I had only a few dollars in my pocket," said Seku.

He legally adopted the name Kwame Seku, and he later earned a GED and teaching certificate. He worked in public schools until his recent retirement.

Over the years, he says his memory slowly started returning.

"They came by bits and pieces, in dreams and waking memories and I researched leads on the Internet," said Seku.

Three years ago, he said he tracked down his identity and flew back to New York for a reunion with his family, including his parents, children and grandchildren.

Seku is asking that he be declared alive so he can collect a $616.73-per-month pension from New York Telephone Company, where Bright worked. The company was bought by Verizon.

"It would be closure, to bring this to a head and move on," said Seku.

However, not everybody is happy about his reappearance.

Bright's wife, Leslie, who is receiving the pension benefits, is fighting the court motion. She's requesting the court declare that her husband had died after a long search.

"Since I made the court motion, my relationship with my family has soured. We aren't speaking," said Seku, "At this point, I'm OK with whatever the court decides. I'm hoping to focus on the relationship with my family."

Psychologists say Seku's story -- walking away from a life because of amnesia -- is very rare and usually sparked by stress, intoxication or a traumatic event.

"Fugue amnesia is real. It can last for days, months, years; 20 years is a very unusual pattern," said clinical psychologist Michael Mantell.

Seku said his memory is still fuzzy and he can't recall what may have caused the amnesia.

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