In January 2015, Bobby Love’s family heard a knock on their door. It was the FBI. Love was a convict from North Carolina who had escaped prison, got married and led a double life for decades without the knowledge of his wife and children.
“It was just a normal morning. Almost exactly five years ago… And we get this knock on the door,” Bobby’s wife, Cheryl Love, recounted in an interview with Humans of New York. She recalled that one of the officers asked her husband what his name was. When he responded “Bobby Love”, the FBI officers asked him to disclose his real name.
“And I heard him say something real low. And they responded: ‘You’ve had a long run’,” Cheryl said.
She would soon learn that her husband’s real name is not Bobby Love but Walter Miller, who had escaped prison in 1977, made it to New York, and had managed to lead a double life for almost 40 years.
Growing up in a poor family with six siblings, Bobby was raised by a single mother. He would later start robbing banks. “I fell in with the wrong group of kids,” he told Humans of New York in 2020. “These guys were robbing banks-and getting away with it. So I decided to tag along.”
But one day while robbing a bank in North Carolina, Bobby got arrested. “One of those banks had a silent alarm. And while we were stuffing our bags full of money, the manager pulled the trigger,” he recalled. “I tried to get away, ducking and weaving, running through cars. But I got shot in the buttocks.”
Bobby was sentenced to 25 to 30 years in jail. But thanks to his good behavior in jail, he was transferred to a minimum-security prison, and that was where he planned his escape.
“Because I worked at the radio station, I was allowed a single pair of civilian clothes,” he said. “I put those on beneath my prison garments and wore everything to bed,” he recalled.
He said he wore those clothes on a Monday night because the security guard on duty on Tuesdays does not search inmates when they go out to clean trash off the highways of Raleigh. Bobby, during his road duty, escaped from the bus. According to Daily News, he fled in 1977 by “hopping off the back of a transport carrying a chain gang of inmates to a road job.”
He then took a bus north and adopted the name of an old friend’s son. He would live in New York for decades, obtaining identification, working several jobs and staying away from trouble. He married his wife in 1985 and they had four children together. The first time they met, they were both employed at Baptist Medical Center in Brooklyn. And for almost 40 years, Cheryl would live with a hardworking and devoted father without knowing his secret past until 2015 when he was tracked down by authorities.
“My world came crashing down. Bobby’s arrest was all over the papers,” Cheryl recalled. “Forty years of marriage, four grown children, and I never knew.”
“I was so angry. But I never hated him,” she said. “I wanted to comfort him. I wanted to hold his hand. I told Bobby later, ‘That’s how I knew I loved you. Because even in the worst of it, I was thinking about you.’”
When Bobby was arrested on January 22, 2015, he had up to 10 years left to serve his sentence, according to Daily News. He had been eligible for release when he escaped from prison.
Bobby spent months at Rikers Island before his extradition back to North Carolina in June 2015. He was sent to the Mountain View Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison in Spruce Pine. But he got lucky as he was not charged criminally with fleeing from prison. Bobby said his escape offense was “handled through a disciplinary process”.
Less than a year after his arrest in 2015, Bobby was released on January 5, 2016. And this was also thanks to the hard work of his wife Cheryl. Apart from testifying on his behalf, she wrote letters to President Barack Obama and the governor to intervene.
“I feel like a big burden has been lifted off my shoulders,” Bobby, now almost 70, told the Daily News after his release in 2016, stressing that he now has nothing to hide from.