CLEARWATER, Fla. – Convicted rapist Douglas Edward Bennett was due to spend up to 18 years in a Connecticut prison following his 1975 conviction.
Instead, the former Mount Holyoke College drama instructor, then 31 years old, fled the state and, for more than four decades, remained at large.
U.S. marshals caught up with Bennett, now 76, on Wednesday outside his home in Clearwater, Florida, where he was using the identity of a 5-year-old who died in 1945, federal authorities said. He was booked into the Pinellas County Jail to face charges of passport fraud and aggravated identity theft.
According to the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, Bennett was sentenced to prison in 1975 on charges of rape, kidnapping, robbery, sexual contact and deviate sexual intercourse. Court records show he had been arrested May 14, 1974, in Wethersfield, Connecticut.
Testimony at trial showed that a masked and armed Bennett forced his way into the 22-yar-old victim’s home, looking for her father, while she was alone on Valentine’s Day 1974. He robbed her of cash before tying her hands behind her back, covering her eyes with tape and dragging her outside, where he undressed and sexually assaulted her.
“He forced her into a car, where she was again raped and sexually abused by Bennett and his companion for over an hour,” court records state.
Bennett was convicted of the charges in January 1975. He appealed his conviction, which allowed him to remain free pending a decision.
The Hartford Courant reported that Bennett’s appellate lawyer, then-renowned attorney F. Lee Bailey, claimed that his client would be vindicated on his appeal. Evidence Bailey cited included the results of a lie detector test, the newspaper said.
The state supreme court upheld Bennett’s conviction the following May, at which point he fled. An arrest warrant remains active for him in Connecticut.
Authorities said Bennett first assumed his fake identity, listed in court records only as G.E., in 1977.
Bennett’s double life began to unravel after he applied in 2016 for a passport renewal under the assumed name, court records state. An audit by the National Passport Center Fraud Program turned up a death certificate for a Massachusetts boy who died in 1945.
The boy was born and died in Holyoke.
“G.E.’s social security number and date of birth were the same as were listed in the July 12, 2016, passport application,” the records state.
Read Bennett’s federal criminal complaint below.
The application included an emergency contact that Bennett identified as his sister. When the passport auditors conducted a search for the woman, they learned that the woman, who was born in Buffalo, New York, had the maiden name of Bennett.
An open-source search turned up an obituary that listed Bennett as the woman’s brother. From there, authorities found Bennett’s birth certificate and his criminal record from Wethersfield.
They also found archived newspaper articles that reported about the criminal case and his flight to avoid serving his prison sentence, the records state.
Investigators also found photos from a 1982 passport obtained by the man calling himself G.E., as well as Bennett’s original booking photo. Both bore a striking resemblance to the photo submitted with G.E.’s 2016 passport application photo.
A fingerprint comparison done after Bennett’s arrest Wednesday confirmed his true identity, authorities said.