Millions of Americans hop in their cars and take to the highways, expressways, and city streets of this great nation every day. Each one of us is out there on the road for our own reasons. We may be going to work, visiting relatives, or even picking up a soda, but we’re all sort of in it together.
Every now and then, one of those millions of drivers will make a wrong move and find themselves waiting on the side of the road as an officer asks for their license. One officer thought he was going to be conducting a simple traffic stop, he had no idea what he had inadvertently stepped into…
Featured Photo Credit: Weaverville Police Department
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Do You Know Why I Pulled You Over?
The officer in question had pulled the driver over because the light over his license plate was out. It seemed a silly, nonsensical offense to stall ticket somebody for, but the law’s the law after all. The man told the officer that his name was William James Sweet, but couldn’t seem to find his drivers’ license.
The officer, assuming that Mr. Sweet had simply left his license at home, went back to his squad car and ran the man’s info. Nothing came back for any William Sweet. It was at that moment the officer realized that perhaps he had stumbled upon something much more sinister than a burnt-out license plate light. He decided to err on the side of caution and arrest the man for driving without a license…
Mr. Sweet was taken to the police station to be interviewed. He seemed nervous, far more nervous in fact than anyone anticipated him to be. Finally, he could take it no longer. During the course of the interview the man came clean and told them that his name wasn’t Sweet at all, but Wint. He was 49 years old and formerly of South Carolina. Though he added that he had “disappeared from Florida”.
Weaverville Police Sgt. Stacy Wyatt, who had been conducting the interview when this “Mr. Wint” came clean, stepped outside the room to marshall his thoughts. Sgt. Wyatt was in shock, it felt like the entire story Wint was telling was something out of a movie. He went back in and told the man, whoever he was, to tell him everything from the beginning…
Talk of Marriage
Bennie Wint and Patricia Hollingsworth, his bride to be, had left the home they shared in South Carolina after it had been hit by Hurricane Hugo. They needed a break and decided to head to Florida and while they were on the way there, they talked about forgoing the rest of the engagement period and finally tying the knot when they arrived.
Vanished in the Sea
A romantic day at the beach soon became a nightmare when Patricia, hysterical and frantic beyond all self-control, rushed to the lifeguard station. She told the lifeguard on duty that her fiance had vanished beneath the surf. She’d looked and looked for him after he went under but he never came up…
Hard to Confirm
The story ended with Bennie Wint’s body being lost to the sea, never to be found. Srgt. Wyatt couldn’t believe it and in fact, when he tried to find some way to prove the confessor was indeed the missing Wint, he came up empty. Wint had destroyed all of his previous identification and whatever records he could find after his supposed death.
Book Him Anyway
Even Wint’s confession was looking like a lie. Yet if it was a lie, it was one heck of a lie to tell in order to get out of a ticket or two. With no other choice, the police booked him under the name “John Doe”, at least until they could find out who he really was. In the meantime, he was held for giving police a fake name and Srgt. Wyatt went to work tracking down Wint’s story…
Never Even Saw
The lifeguard on duty at the time of the actual Bennie Wint’s disappearance was adamant that he had been watching the surf very carefully and that he had never seen Wint go under. Still, there was a nagging feeling inside him that perhaps he missed something and that Bennie was really gone. In any case, he was never found.
Wint left behind not only his fiancée but also a four-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. This little girl would eventually grow into a woman named Christi McKnight, and she was 4 years old when her father vanished. 20 years after he disappeared, she believed she may have found him…
John Doe stayed in jail for the next few days, filling in Srgt. Wyatt and the other officers about his scheme for escaping his potential fiance. He explained that the getaway was quite simple. Wint swam to shore in the knee-deep water, then walked off the beach and never looked back. He then hitchhiked to Alabama and started a new life in North Carolina, where they’d picked him up.
The disappearance happened a long time ago, but even then there were rumors flying around the Wint hadn’t drowned at all. It was particularly strange, given that drowned victims are usually located floating several days after death, that his body was never recovered. It wasn’t found immediately nor was it found washed ashore some days later. Could John Doe have been Bennie Wint?
After some intense digging the police were happy to conclude that the man taken to the precinct from a routine traffic stop, William Sweet, AKA John Doe, was in reality, notorious dead man, Bennie Wint. He had indeed been telling the truth, at least this time anyway, and had run away to start a new life after faking his death.
But why had Wint gone to such great lengths to leave his future wife, ex-wife, and daughter on that Daytona Beach so long ago? It wasn’t that he was looking to escape his fiance, or responsibility for his child. No, it was actually much stranger. Bennie Wint had run away because he believed the authorities in South Carolina were after him because of his involvement in a large drug ring…
Not Really an Issue
Srgt Wyatt didn’t buy it. Wint had told some humdingers since they’d arrested him but the sergeant believed that what had affected Bennie was mere paranoia. None of what Wint had done with the drug ring was on public record he wasn’t wanted on charges anywhere in the US. “He was running because of the prior life he lived,” explained Wyatt.
Today, Bennie Wint has a new common-law wife and a teenage son whom he named, appropriately, William James Sweet Jr. He lives in Marshall, North Carolina with Sonya Tull Jones and has been keeping a rather low profile since his secret was exposed. Though, now he definitely has a reason to be paranoid…
Living in Seclusion
Wint has been approached by several news organizations since being released from jail but has declined to grant any interviews unless they offer significant fiscal returns. He says that anything that doesn’t pay is a waste of his time and he can live in his seclusion forever, giving no answers to anyone, including his bereaved family, if he so desires.
No Other Charges
Aside from the traffic misdemeanors he received, no further charges were brought against him. They didn’t even officially charge him for faking his own death. He would remain in seclusion until sometime this year when he came forward with some interesting news about his former, true identity…
Currently, Bennie Wint has to set about recreating his old life once again. It’s been an uphill battle of course, without any of his real identification, he will be hard-pressed to get a new Social Security card or even his own birth certificate. It would be understandable if any of his former family decided not to provide him with any of their copies.
Relief and Resentment
In the meantime, the police who went searching for Wint’s “missing” corpse has spoken openly about not going after him for the missing funds they expended during the search. “It’s been too long,” explained one official. “I’m really happy he’s alive. I really am.” As for Wint’s daughter, she declined to comment about her father’s unbelievable double life.