Man missing 20 years with alleged amnesia wants to be un-declared dead

February 21, 2014 (SAN DIEGO)

By all accounts, Winston Bright had a blissfully ordinary life. He was married with three kids in the East Village in New York City.

One day in 1990, he told his wife he'd be home for dinner. He left work but never showed. It sparked a missing persons investigation that turned up nothing. Around that time frame, a man -- without an identity or memories, turned up in San Diego.

"I was lost and confused and it was kind of frightening," he said.

He spent a year at a homeless shelter and took the name Kwame Seku. He got his GED, went to community college and got his teaching certificate, and started teaching. After 12 years in San Diego, Seku left for northern California. Slowly, he says some memories returned.

"Dreams, waking memories, investigating those leads on the Internet," he said.

Three years ago, his search to find himself led him to home of the missing Winston Bright, who had been declared legally dead. He was reunited with his family, including his children and grandchildren. Recently, he petitioned a court to declare him alive -- so he could collect his pension benefit from his old employer, now owned by Verizon.

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

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

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

Seku says his memory is still fuzzy and can't recall what may have caused the amnesia. He recently retired and returned to San Diego.

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