Authorities say an S.C. man who faked his own death 20 years ago while visiting Daytona Beach told police he was trying to hide from an S.C. drug ring.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported this week that a Weaverville, N.C., police officer stopped 49-year-old Bennie Harden Wint for a traffic violation Saturday. He gave an assumed name, but when no records came up, Wint admitted his true identity.
He was charged with giving a false name and driving without a driver's license. He was later released on his own recognizance.
Authorities had believed Wint drowned when he went missing in September 1989, leaving behind a fiancée and a daughter from a previous marriage.
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In 1989, Wint and Patricia Lynn Hollingsworth, who was 37 at the time, left their home in McBee, S.C., about 75 miles southeast of Charlotte. They were supposed to be married while in Florida, Hollingsworth told Volusia County authorities.
The couple arrived in Daytona Beach on Sept. 24, 1989, the report states. They stayed the night at the Ocean Sands Motel and went to the beach the next day.
Hollingsworth said Wint went into the water shortly after 4 p.m. and swam out past the breakers. She last saw him near a dark-haired surfer.
Hollingsworth reported his disappearance to the nearest lifeguard, the report states. She then ran up and down the beach looking for Wint.
The lifeguard never saw Wint. Both a lifeguard boat and the Volusia County Sheriff's Office helicopter conducted a search.
“It's seldom that we lose someone off the beach and they don't wash back in,” Beach Patrol Capt. Scott Petersohn said. “I believe there are a number of people who disappear this way.”
During a follow-up interview Sept. 26, 1989, “Hollingsworth stated that she was engaged to Wint and had talked about getting married on this trip to Florida,” records show.
Lifeguards continued the search for several days.
“I feel terrible for our lifeguard,” Petersohn said. “He spent all this time thinking he let somebody drown.”