N.C. Convict Escaped to N.Y. and Raised a Family — and then Police Came Knocking Decades Later
Cheryl Love recalls making tea in the kitchen of her Brooklyn home when police knocked on her door and then raced toward her husband, who was still in bed, and forced him to reveal a secret he’d kept for 40 years.
“I heard them ask: ‘What’s your name?,’” she recalled of the officers who barged past. “And he said, ‘Bobby Love.’ Then they said, ‘No. What’s your real name?’ And I heard him say something real low. And they responded: ‘You’ve had a long run.'”
Recounting the 2015 incident now, Cheryl adds: “It didn’t make any sense. I’d been married to Bobby for 40 years. He didn’t even have a criminal record. At this point I’m crying, and I screamed: ‘Bobby, what’s going on?’ Did you kill somebody?’ And he tells me: ‘This goes way back, Cheryl. Back before I met you. Way back to North Carolina.’”
The couple’s story is unspooled in the photoblog Humans of New York, which on Wednesday dropped the first of 11 Instagram chapters detailing the arrest, double-life and redemption of Bobby — née Walter Miller — who had married and raised a family under his assumed name. The story followed his 1977 escape from a Raleigh prison where was serving up to 30 years for robbery and armed robbery with a firearm, reports The News & Observer.
Bobby’s arrest led to his extradition back to North Carolina. There, after serving less than a year to complete his original term, he was released in 2016, and simultaneously set free from his decades of lies and fear of discovery.
“I feel like a big burden has been lifted off my shoulders,” Bobby, now 69, told the Daily News that year.
Humans of New York is a series of photographic portraits of everyday people, accompanied in this case by the first-person narratives of Bobby and Cheryl who recount Bobby’s past and what happened after his secret identity was revealed.
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE’s free True Crime newsletter for breaking crimenews, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.
“We grew up poor, but nothing really dramatic happened until I went to a Sam Cooke concert at the age of 14,” Bobby says on the site. “I was excited to be at that concert, so I pushed my way to the front row — right near the stage. The crowd was really moving, because it was dance music. And Sam Cooke didn’t like that. He kept telling people to sit down. And after only two songs, he got so angry that he walked off the stage. So I screamed at the top of my lungs: ‘Sam Cooke ain’t sh**t!’”
“And in North Carolina, back in 1964, that was enough to get me arrested for disorderly conduct.”
He describes a short descent into teen delinquency, saying he “fell in with the wrong group of kids” after moving north to live with his brother in Washington, D.C.
“These guys were robbing banks — and getting away with it,” he says. “So I decided to tag along. We’d drive down to North Carolina because those banks had less security. And we got away with it a few times. After every score, we’d hang out on the strip at 14th and T, and act like big timers. We felt like gangsters. I have nobody to blame but myself. I just enjoyed the feeling of having money. But the fun didn’t last for long.”
After an arrest for the June 21, 1971 robbery at a Greensboro finance company — he said he was shot in the buttocks by police after the would-be thieves tripped an alarm — “[i]t was all over for Walter Miller,” he says.
A judge sentenced him to 25 to 30 years. His mom died while he was behind bars, “and that really shook me up,” he says. “Because my entire life she’d been praying for me to turn my life around. And she never got to see it happen.”
According to the News & Observer, he was riding a prisoner transport bus to a work site outside a now-closed minimum security prison when he made his escape, hiding his civilian clothes under his prison uniform and then spending $10 on a bus ticket to Manhattan.
He assumed the name of an old friend’s son, and met Cheryl in the 1980s when both worked at Baptist Medical Center in Brooklyn, reports the Daily News.
The two were married in 1985 and had four children, according to the News & Observer.
At the time of his 2015 re-arrest, his daughter Jessica, told the Daily News, “My father was determined to change his life, and for 40 years or so he did just that.”
“I’m excited to be back with my children and my wife,” Bobby told the Daily News after he was paroled in 2016. “I’m trying to put my life back together.”