"[It was] like I was in a... Lifetime movie," Cheryl recalled. As the FBI came barging through her door one fateful morning, she was hit with a chilling wakeup call: Her husband of 40+ years was not the man he said he was. Here's her story.
The Moment of Truth
On a winter day in 2015, life as Cheryl Love knew it changed forever. Sure, it had started out normal: She was prepping tea in the kitchen. Her husband was asleep in the room next door. But a sudden knock on the door changed all of that.
"I opened [the front door] slowly and saw the police standing there," she recalled. "At first? I wasn't worried." It must've been a mistake, she thought. Only Cheryl was painfully mistaken. And as 12 uniformed officers came barging into her New York home, she was about to learn that the hard way.
“You’ve Had a Long Run”
The startled housewife watched in confusion as the FBI agents made their way through her apartment. Only as they slammed open her bedroom door, it suddenly became clear: "What's your name?" the officers approached her spouse. He was "Bobby Love:" proud husband and father - as he himself explained. But that wasn't all he was...
"What's your real name?" the agents continued to pry. As Bobby whispered 2 short words, the responding officers turned white. "You've had a long run," they muttered, as they reached for their cuffs. They then turned to Cheryl: "Get back. You don't know who this man is."
Enter Walter Miller
Well, who was he? It was a question that consumed Cheryl, as she watched her husband of 40+ years get carried out in handcuffs. "Bobby, what's going on?!" she shouted. As the agents guided Mr. Love out the front door, he turned around one last time: "This goes way back, Cheryl. Back before I met you."
…Back in the 1950s, all the way down in North Carolina, Bobby Love was busy leading a completely different life: He was Walter Curtis Miller, a self-titled "momma's boy" with a heart of gold. "I played sports. I worked hard. I took care of my nieces and nephews and my little brother. I loved my family," he recalled. So what went wrong?
It all started in 1964 - a Sam Cooke concert, otherwise known as the turning point in Walter Miller's life. There was something brewing in the air that day. The crowd was rowdy and the musician seemed frustrated. And before Walter knew it? He was being ushered away in cuffs for jokingly cursing out the disgruntled performer.
Unfortunately, Miller's first arrest - "disorderly conduct," as the officers explained - wouldn't be his last. "Things went downhill... after that," he recalled. From stealing purses to swiping federal checks, the 14-year-old boy was spiraling. And after getting busted stealing from his school? He officially reached his breaking point.
“They Shipped Me Off”
"They shipped me off to a juvenile detention center," Walter recalled of the events that followed. After years ridden by bad behavior, the young boy (pictured below, back center) was finally forced to do the time. Only his days at Morrison Training School were worse than he could have ever imagined. "I hated everything about that place."
From the "terrible" food to the "violent" kids, Walter Miller's scars would never truly fade away. And as he lay in bed each night, listening to the familiar hum of the distant trains, he discovered a newfound purpose in life: He was going to find a way out of Morrison, one way or another.
The First Escape
But where would he even start? Walter Miller needed precision, there was no room for mistakes here. Little did the juvenile know, though, that a "mistake" was exactly what'd lead him out of those North Carolina doors one fateful evening... What happened?
"One night… the guard turned his back to check the clock," Miller recalled of the moment he saw his opportunity arrive. It was now or never. As his heart continued to pound, the eager teen raced with all his might towards the exit doors. "And that was the first place I ever escaped from."
As Walter tasted the fresh air that awaited him on the other side, a smile spread across his face. He'd dreamt about this moment for so long, and here it was. But Miller's journey was actually far from over. The anxious teen continued to run... and run, until he finally reached his destination: the train tracks.
"I followed those train tracks all the way to Washington," he recalled. From there? Walter finally arrived at his brother's doorstep, the perfect place to lay low, as he saw it. There, he enrolled in a new school, attended classes, played 'ball. "It seemed like everything would be alright." For now, at least.
“My Old Ways Caught Up With Me”
But while Walter was busy running from his past, his past wasn't done with him just yet. And he was about to find that out the hard way. "I hadn't learned my lesson yet... my old ways caught up with me," Miller confessed, as he began to fall in with the wrong crowd.
"These guys were robbing banks - and getting away with it," he recalled. And it wasn't long before he began tagging along for the ride. "After every score, we'd hang out on the strip... and act like big-timers. We felt like gangsters." Little did he know, that same feeling wouldn't last long.
The Bank Bust
On a fateful day in August 1971, after several bank heists, life as Walter knew it suddenly took a sharp turn: as he and his pals made their way to their latest target, they were sure everything would go as planned. What they didn't know, was that this bank was different than the rest.
This establishment was actually equipped with a silent alarm; which meant while Walter and his partners were busy stuffing their bags, the cops were already 10 steps ahead of them. "The police were waiting for us in the parking lot," Miller recalled of the chaos that soon erupted...
It all happened so fast. "I tried to get away, ducking and weaving, running through cars," Walter recalled. But it was too late. As a responding officer shot the fleeting criminal, suddenly everything turned black. The next thing Walter Miller knew, he awoke handcuffed in a hospital bed.
Unfortunately, the boy's hospital visit was the least of his worries. Upon his discharge, Walter Miller was found guilty not only for this robbery, but for yet another. And that's when reality set in: "I was going away for a very long time," he recalled.
The Turning Point
Sure, he "held out hope for a while," as he revealed. But it was no use. "I kept hitting dead ends." After being sent to maximum security Central Prison for a 25-30 year sentence, it seemed as if there was no way out. And perhaps there wasn't. But as tragedy soon struck the Miller family, Walter was left questioning everything.
"My mama died during this time… that really shook me up," he reflected. "Because my entire life, she'd been praying for me to turn my life around. And she never got to see it." And it was at this very moment Walter knew he needed to change. For his mother's sake, at the very least. And that's exactly what he did.
Too Good To Be True
In the blink of an eye, Walter Miller had done a total 180. "I committed myself to doing better," he explained, as he morphed into the perfect inmate. And it paid off immensely. Not only was he transferred to the minimum security prison down the hill, but it was the oasis he needed. "I was relaxed... feeling good."
Unfortunately, it didn't last long. The prison's captain had wrongly accused Walter of hurling a profanity his way, this turned his retreat into an all-too-real nightmare. "The negative reports kept piling up... I was 1 mark away from being sent back up the hill," he recalled of the bullying that followed. He needed to do something, fast.
An Unlikely Opportunity Arises
After all the progress he'd made, he couldn't bear being sent back up the hill. If not for him, for his mother's sake. But what was Walter to do? Ironically enough, after receiving yet another punishment by his captain, a promising opportunity soon arose for the troubled inmate.
Walter was assigned one of the worst jobs in the prison - cleaning trash off the nearby highways. And that's when the planning and plotting began. He was going to find a way out of this prison. He had to. "It was awful," Miller recalled of the unfavorable work conditions. But where would he start?
A Plan is Hatched
In the weeks that followed, a newfound hope began to brew within Walter. "I saved up my money, I memorized the bus route" - everything from the intersection the driver would stop at to the wooded area that surrounded it. He was going to do things right this time.
And it seemed like fate was on his side. Not only was the guard who worked Tuesdays notoriously lax, but that was exactly the push Walter needed to put his plan into play. As he watched football in the common room one Monday night, he suddenly reached a decision: "[It's] going to be my last night in prison."
"And I Was Gone”
As Walter Miller boarded the bus Tuesday morning for his daily chores, it would be the last time. In a matter of hours, he would be gone - vanish, without a trace in sight. "I cleaned out my locker... no phone numbers. No dresses. Nothing they could use to find me."
He scurried to the back of the bus and waited 5 painful minutes before the driver arrived at the familiar intersection. Walter was ready, his hand gripping the exit handle beside him. It was go time. "As we slowed down for a stop, I swung open the back door — and I was gone."
Man on the Run
As Walter raced for the forest before him, he had no idea what awaited him. What he did know, though, was that there was no going back now. He ran, and ran... and ran, until the wail of the bus's alarm sirens began to fade into the background; a distant blur.
With shaky hands, Walter peeled off his green inmate uniform, now drenched in sweat and dirt. Instead, he swapped it for the civilian clothing he cleverly wore underneath. Now what? Sure, he'd ditched the conspicuous jumpsuit. But the truth was that Walter Miller stuck out like a sore thumb. "I looked like trouble."
As Miller emerged from the woods and rejoined civilization, he had one thing and one thing only on his mind: finding the Greyhound station. He needed to lay low and make his way to the bus hub. Once he was on the road, headed towards New York, everything would be okay. Right?
He carefully approached strangers he encountered along the way, asking for directions. "Keep going," Miller was told. Sure enough, he did just that, until finally, Walter arrived at the Greyhound parking lot. He borrowed some money from a generous stranger, hopped on the desired line, and braced himself for the ride of his life.
“And That Was the Death of Walter Miller…”
As he slumped into the bus seat, Walter knew the hardest part was just beginning: He had to make the 7+ hour drive from Raleigh to New York without being detected. He looked out the Greyhound window, eager to distract his racing mind. Only that didn't last long.
"What's your name?" the chatty stranger sitting next to him suddenly asked. Walter froze. Did she know? He had to calm down before he let his imagination get the best of him. "I thought for a moment, and said: Bobby Love," he recalled. "And that was the death of Walter Miller..."
Arriving in New York
In late November 1977, Bobby Love finally touched down on New York soil. As he stepped foot off of that Greyhound, he was met with an overwhelming wave of emotions. Sure, he was grateful to finally be free. But at what cost? "I had to build a life from scratch," he explained.
With just $100, 1 pair of clothes, and an endless amount of nerves in tow, Bobby was in way over his head. "I was... in a tough spot." With seemingly no other choice, Love settled into a local, budget motel. But just 2 weeks later, he was struck with a startling reality check.
A Fresh Start
After 14 days spent surviving on hot dogs and frugal finds, Bobby's money suddenly ran out. What now? He began taking shelter on local trains, but even he knew that could only get him so far. "I had to figure out a way to get a foothold in life," Love recalled. But where would he even start?
After all, Bobby Love was a ghost. At least as far as the government was concerned. He needed papers: ID, social security - anything to get his new life started. And that's exactly what he did. "I walked up to the window, told the lady a story about losing everything, and she gave me a card," he revealed.
Things Were Looking Up
With an official ID, social security, and shortly after, his very own driver's license, Bobby Love was already making major headway. Up next? He needed a job, anything to help put food on the table. With enough luck and convincing, the escapee managed to nab several random gigs.
He welcomed whatever paychecks he possibly could. And factor in the $8/night hotels he managed to find? It almost seemed as if everything was lining up. He was going to be okay. Little did Bobby know, his first official job was about to change his life in more ways than one...
The Moment He Met Cheryl
As Love secured a job working the cafeteria of Brooklyn's Baptist Medical Center, nothing would ever be the same. "That's where I met Cheryl," he recalled. What started as an innocent friendship soon morphed into something more for the smitten co-workers.
"Cheryl was innocent. The opposite of me." Bobby was instantly drawn. And so was she. They began dating, as they continued to get to know each other on a deeper level. But as the two co-workers headed down a romantic path, would Love's secrets come back to haunt them?
The Start of Mr. and Mrs. Love
As the couple's bond continued to grow, so did Bobby's fears. "I never told her about Walter. I didn't see the need," he reflected. But would Cheryl see things the same if she ever knew the truth? It was something he never wanted to find out. And so, as the two tied the knot come 1985, Mr. and Mrs. Love were officially born.
And just like that, the fairytale began: Bobby welcomed a steady job, the newlyweds started a family of their own. But even after 4 kids and several blissful years, Mr. Love couldn't fight that familiar, uneasy thought: What if someone were to find out the truth? "I'm not going anywhere, unless somebody takes me," he'd remind himself.
Would He Ever Come Clean?
Little did he know those words would soon ring true. But we're not there just yet. And in the years that followed, Bobby's inner dilemma only continued to grow. "You've got to come clean, you've got to tell her," his family back in North Carolina would further urge him. But it wasn't that simple...
The truth was that no one truly knew Cheryl Love the way that Bobby did. "[She] is a righteous women," he explained. And a secret this big? Held the potential to leave their entire foundation - everything they'd ever built together - crumbling. "She'd turn up the heat." And he was right.
"Something Was Different"
Things in the Love household continued to get more heated by the day. While Cheryl still had yet to learn about her husband's dark secret, she couldn't shake the feeling that something was... off. "There was a piece missing... something was different," she reflected.
Whether it was his refusal to be in pictures or his hesitance to interact with strangers, something wasn't adding up. That much Cheryl was sure of. And as the days continued to pile on, so did those red flags. But by the time December 2014 came rolling around? Nothing would ever be the same.
A Tip to the FBI
"I remember during Christmas... I was on my knees in church, saying, 'Lord, please, I can't do this anymore,'" Mrs. Love recalled. Sure enough, just a few weeks later, the depleted wife would get that "out" she craved. Whether or not she actually wanted it, that's another story…
It was supposed to be another routine visit, a trip to North Carolina after the passing of a Love family member. Only the events that soon followed were anything but. As Bobby and Cheryl made their way to Raleigh, someone had recognized him and alerted the feds. And just like that, Mr. and Mrs. Love's lives came to a sudden halt.
“My World Came Crashing Down”
"My world came crashing down," Cheryl recalled of their return to NY. "Forty years of marriage, four grown children, and I never knew. How could I be so stupid?" As the 12 FBI agents brought her husband out in cuffs that morning in January, it was surreal; almost "like I was in a movie - a Lifetime movie," Mrs. Love recalled.
Unfortunately, Bobby's arrest was also crippling for him. "When I first visited him in prison, he broke down," Cheryl recalled. "You're going to leave me," he cried to his wife. But when it came to Mrs. Love? Her mind was already made up. "I told him... Bobby Love, I married you for better or for worse.... this is the worst."
Home, At Last
And she meant every word. She was going to stand by her husband, do whatever it took to get him out. "I wrote letters to the governor. I wrote letters to Obama. I gathered testimonials from everyone Bobby ever knew." Sure, she knew nothing about "Walter Miller." But the truth was that none of that even mattered....
She told the parole board all about Bobby Love: the kind-hearted, hardworking family man she fell in love with all those years ago... And they were just as compelled as she was. In a remarkable twist of fate, after just 1 year behind bars, Mr. Love finally came home. But that's not where this story ends.
Only Up From Here...
After all, where were the Loves supposed to go from here? Cheryl's husband had lied to her, kept his entire identity hidden. From this point forward, they'd have to be transparent. So long as she had a say. "I sat him down and asked... Are we the Loves? ... or the Millers?" But for Bobby, it was clear: "He said, 'We Love. We Love.'"
Sure, there are still days where Cheryl is angry, where she has doubts. But at the end of the day? The Loves came out of this even better - "better for me, better for the kids, and better for Bobby," the proud wife gushed. After 40+ years, her husband is finally free to be... himself. And that's one story that's just getting started.
Home Is Where the Heart Is
When Walter Miller said goodbye to the only home he knew back in 1977, he had no idea what awaited him. But with the right amount of trust and determination, his path led him to his final destination. And perhaps we could all learn a thing or two from him in the process.
It never mattered what his social security read, what his name truly was, or that he was forced to say goodbye to his entire identity: For
Walter Miller Bobby Love, he came to learn that home wasn't a place - not a cramped Brooklyn apartment nor a 4x4 jail cell - but rather, 2 eyes and a beating heart.