Mom Says She Knew Instantly That 'Amnesiac' Missing 20 Years Was Her Son
EAST VILLAGE — She never forgot his face.
Mary Bright, the mother of a married East Village man who mysteriously vanished in 1990, says that a California amnesiac claiming to be her long-lost son is the real deal — and she knew it as soon as she laid eyes on him.
Bright, 80, detailed her certainty of the connection in an affidavit that the amnesiac, Kwame Seku, submitted this week in Manhattan Surrogate's Court as part of his case to prove he is Winston Bright.
"When I saw Kwame Seku, I instantly recognized him as my son, Winston Bright," the mom said in the affidavit about their reunion in 2008. "Although he had aged (gray hair, balding and dentures), he had the same facial structure, stature and voice of my son, Winston Bright."
"Kwame Seku had many mannerisms of my husband (his father) after all those years," she added. "I had no doubts whatsoever."
Seku, 65, also submitted this week the results of a DNA test between him and Mary Bright that he says shows with 99 percent certainty that they are mother and son.
Seku has spent the past two years trying to prove he is Winston Bright and have himself declared un-dead.
"She's just as anxious as I am to kind of get this resolved," Seku told DNAinfo New York, referring to Mary Bright. "She knows I've been trying to get this done for years."
Winston Bright was last seen at his job as a switch operator at New York Telephone in Oct. 12, 1990. He never returned home to his wife, Leslie Bright, and three children.
His family and police searched for him for a year but the manhunt came up empty.
In 2000, Leslie went to Manhattan Surrogate's Court to have her husband declared dead so she could collect his pension with New York Telephone, which is now Verizon.
Seku claims that as Winston, he had suffered amnesia and ended up in San Diego in 1992. He said, without knowing his true identity, he got a judge there to declare him Kwame Seku and he started a new life, becoming a public school teacher.
Mary Bright said in her affidavit that she never believed her son died.
"After my son disappeared, I was devastated and tried to locate him with no results," she said. "I never gave up the hope that I would someday find him."
She added that shortly before Winston disappeared he had come to her and her husband asking for financial support.
"I never believed my son was deceased," she said. "I assumed that he was stressed about life and left town."
Seku said he reconnected with the Brights in 2008, when he started to remember parts of his past and Dorothy Bell — a sister of Mary Bright who also never believed Winston was dead — located him online.
He said he traveled to New York and was able to reconnect with his father and his grandmother before they died.
Seku said he now visits Mary Bright once a year, staying at her Harlem apartment, where he gets to savor her home-cooking.
Since 2012, he's been trying to prove his identity in Manhattan Surrogate's Court, mainly so he can get the Verizon pension that Leslie Bright collects.
A judge previously rejected Seku's claim, but Seku hopes that the DNA test and affidavits from Mary Bright and Selena Bright, his alleged sister, will provide enough proof.
One roadblock to his case has been that Leslie and her three children don't believe Seku and refuse to help him.
"I don't believe he had amnesia," Leslie Bright previously 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."
Seku, who is retired, believes that Leslie doesn't need the pension as much as he does. No matter how the judge decides, he plans on moving on with his life.
"It's been annoying, actually, to have to reconstruct my past and go through the court system," Seku said. "I'm glad it's almost over. One way or another, I'm moving on."