Wife of Missing East Village Dad Doesn't Buy His Amnesia Story

By James Fanelli on February 20, 2014 9:51am 

 Leslie and Winston Bright pose on their wedding day. Leslie says Kwame Seku, the man who claims to be her missing husband, is a liar.
Leslie and Winston Bright pose on their wedding day. Leslie says Kwame Seku, the man who claims to be her missing husband, is a liar.
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Courtesy of Leslie Bright

EAST VILLAGE — She's not willing to forgive and forget.

The wife of an East Village telephone worker who vanished mysteriously more than 20 years ago doesn't want anything to do with a California amnesiac who says he is her missing husband.

Leslie Bright, 63, said she doesn't believe the story of Kwame Seku, a retired San Diego teacher who has gone to court to prove he is Bright's husband, Winston, claiming he had suffered a psychological condition that made him forget his true identity for years.

"I don't believe he had amnesia," Leslie Bright told DNAinfo New York. "All he wants is money. He doesn't want his children. He doesn't want me. He made that clear when he came here, if it was him."

DNAinfo New York first reported in December that Seku had filed a petition in Manhattan Surrogate's Court in 2012, asking a judge to declare him Winston Bright so he could claim his pension from when he worked as a switchman for New York Telephone. 

Winston Bright disappeared without a trace on Oct. 12, 1990, after leaving his job at the phone utility. His wife and three children worked with the NYPD to find him, but the hunt came up empty.

"We searched for him. We put pictures up. I had to go to One Police Plaza and look at gruesome pictures to see if it was him," Leslie Bright recalled.

After a decade of searching, Bright gave up hope and had a judge declare her husband dead so she could collect his insurance and small pension from New York Telephone, which is now Verizon.

"I waited 11 or 12 years before I declared him dead," she said. "I honestly thought he was dead but I didn't want to believe it. It was rough."

Leslie said the years after Winston Bright disappeared were tough on her and her children. She worked temp jobs but had to eventually go on welfare.

She moved out of her Peter Cooper Village apartment and into her parents' home in the East Village. Her two sons had run-ins with the law and served time in prison.

 Kwame Seku, who claims he was formerly Winston Bright, says he went missing for nearly two decades because he had amnesia. He's now trying to reunite with his family and get himself declared undead.
Kwame Seku, who claims he was formerly Winston Bright, says he went missing for nearly two decades because he had amnesia. He's now trying to reunite with his family and get himself declared undead.
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Kwame Seku

If Winston had been around, the family's life would have been very different, she said.

"My kids might not have gone to jail. My son went out there to sell drugs because he thought we didn't have enough money," Bright said.

Bright said Seku started contacting her family in the late 2000s. He claimed after suffering memory loss, he had ended up in San Diego, living in a homeless shelter. Since he didn't know who he was, he got a San Diego judge to declare him Kwame Seku.

Seku started a new life, obtaining his GED and eventually a master's degree, becoming a teacher in the state's public school system.

Bright said she and her kids didn't buy Seku's story of amnesia, noting that he never brought any proof from a doctor. She said that when he came to New York to see them, he made it clear he wanted his pension and had no plans of moving back to the East Coast.

"At that time, he should have said something to me," Bright said. "All he worried about was that money at the phone company. He talked about it so much. The little pension check."

In September 2012 a Manhattan judge dismissed Seku's petition because Bright and her kids wouldn't back his story and he had no other proof.

However, last week Seku claimed in a document that he and Winston Bright's mother, Mary Bright, had taken a DNA test that positively showed they were related.

Bright lives on her Social Security disability check and the $350-a-month pension from Verizon. She said the new proof doesn't change her mind about Seku. She added that if he continues to try to wrest the pension from her, she will sue him for child support.

"If the DNA test is true, well, I'm going full-speed ahead with suing him — for back child support and alimony. I want everything — even for him to pay for the cat food," Bright said.

"All he had to do was leave me and my children alone. My kids don’t want to hear his name."

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