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A former college drama instructor convicted of violently kidnapping and raping a 22-year-old woman has been captured in Florida after more than 40 years on the run, authorities say.
Douglas E. Bennett, 76, evaded justice for decades, but was arrested Wednesday after he was discovered living in Clearwater, Florida under an assumed name, according to the Department of Justice.
Bennett had taken the identify of a 5-year-old boy who died in Massachusetts in 1945, allowing him to go undetected for more than 40 years, according to The Hartford Courant.
His true identity was discovered after he submitted a passport application in July 2016 using the name and social security number of the dead child. The application was flagged after investigators realized the social security number was linked to a deceased individual. A Department of State security officer began investigating the passport fraud and tracked the application to Bennett, who was arrested Wednesday at his home.
Bennett was convicted in 1975 by a Connecticut jury of robbery, kidnapping, sexual contact, rape and deviate sexual intercourse. He was sentenced to nine to 18 years behind bars in a Connecticut State Prison but never turned himself in to begin his sentence, authorities said.
Before disappearing, Bennett had proclaimed he was innocent. He was represented by renowned defense attorney F. Lee Bailey—who would later go on to help acquit O.J. Simpson for the murder of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson.
Bailey said his client would be cleared on an appeal after discovering new evidence, but Bennett vanished before any further legal proceedings, the paper reports.
Bennett, a one-time drama instructor at Mount Holyoke College, had been accused of brutally attacking a woman in her Wethersfield home on Valentine’s Day 1974 after forcing his way into the home at gunpoint.
Bennett had allegedly been looking for the woman’s father, but turned his aggression toward her, robbing her and dragging her outside to rape her before forcing her into a car, The Hartford Courant reports.
For more than an hour, Bennett and an accomplice who had been in the car allegedly raped and sexually assaulted the victim.
Authorities said Bennett’s fingerprints have been matched to the same person convicted in 1975. The accomplice in the case was never identified.
When he was arrested, investigators said he had a Florida driver’s license with his photo and the false name.
Bennett is also now facing charges of passport fraud and aggravated identity theft for assuming the identity. If convicted, he could face up to 12 years in federal prison.
Bennett’s neighbors said they were shocked to discover his true identity and violent past.
“It was mind-blowing,” neighbor Vince Stegura told local station WTVT. “So I knew him as like a sailor from the northeast, and he told me he traveled the world sailing.”
Neighbor John Ouimette described the discovery to local station WFLA as unreal.
“It’s incredible, you only hear of this stuff on TV, in a book, or in a movie, these things,” Ouimette said. “It’s really sinister. It’s bad. It’s as bad as it gets.”
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