Cheryl and Bobby Love had spent 40 blissful years of marriage together. But all that got flipped upside down one day when Mrs. Love got a knock at the door from a dozen FBI officers. This is her story.
A Fateful Morning
As they say, we don't realize how normal life is until it isn't. And that's certainly the case with Cheryl Love. It was a typical New York winter morning in 2015: kettle on the stove and her husband asleep in the other room.
But then a knock at the door flipped her life upside down. "I opened [the door] slowly and saw the police standing there," Love said. "At first? I wasn't worried." Love couldn't imagine that it was serious, but she would soon learn that it truly was - thanks to the 12 officers that stormed into her home.
"What's Your Real Name?"
Cheryl was stunned as the parade of FBI agents filed into her NYC apartment and approached the room where her husband was sleeping. He was awoken by the officers demanding a name. "Bobby Love," he assured them - a committed husband and dad. Except that was a lie...
"What's your real name?" the FBI agents followed up. And under his breath, Bobby uttered a new name - not the one he'd used for all these years. "You've had a long run," the officers said as they cuffed Bobby. "Get back. You don't know who this man is," they warned Cheryl, carrying out the arrest.
"Bobby, what's going on?!" Cheryl yelled at her husband as he was escorted out to the police vehicle. After forty years of marriage, Love was experiencing the shock of a lifetime. She wanted answers. "This goes way back, Cheryl. Back before I met you," her husband confessed.
Flashback to the '50s and Bobby Love didn't exist... yet. His name was Curtis Miller, a good-hearted North Carolina boy who loved his family. "I played sports. I worked hard. I took care of my nieces and nephews and my little brother," he remembered. But what changed?
"Things Went Downhill"
The downward spiral started back in 1964 at a Sam Cooke concert. What was meant to be a fun evening out turned into chaos, and tension was palpable in the air. The concert-goers were feisty, and the band wasn't having any of it. Walter yelled out a curse in jest - and the next thing he knew, he was being hauled out of the audience.
As it would turn out, this "disorderly conduct" was just Walter's first of many run-ins with the law. Pickpocketing and stealing checks would become regular practice for this out-of-control 14-year-old. But things went to another level when he was caught robbing his own school.
He Was Sent Away
"They shipped me off to a juvenile detention center," Walter confessed of the consequences following the robbery. It seemed as though his delinquent youth had caught up with him. Walter, pictured in the back center, was sent to Morrison Training School. "I hated everything about that place," he recalled.
It would take years for Miller's emotional and physical scars to heal from that place. Sure, the food was terrible, but it was the "violent kids" that kept him up at night. He spent his sleepless hours dreaming and scheming of escaping from this detention center.
He Broke Out
The daring teen needed a plan, that was certain. With constant supervision from the guards, there was no room for error. But as luck turned out, an error was what allowed him to bust out of the detention center and taste the sweet air of freedom once again. But how did he pull it off?
"One night... the guard turned his back to check the clock," Walter explained of his daring escape. He saw a chance and took it, dashing for the exit. To his relief and amazement, he managed to exit the perimeter. "And that was the first place I ever escaped from."
His Next Move
With the fences of Morrison Training School behind him, Walter finally realized what he'd accomplished. But the joy was quickly overshadowed by doubt. How long did he have before they realized he was missing? And where should he go now? He didn't know the answers, so he took off running until he arrived at the train tracks.
"I followed those train tracks all the way to Washington," Walter remembered of his long journey. His travels led him eventually to his brother's house, where he tried to get a fresh start: new school, better reputation, the whole ordeal. "It seemed like everything would be alright," he thought. But the future was unknown...
History Repeated Itself
It took a leap of faith for Walter to escape the detention center and reach his brother's house. And while he wanted to right his wrongs by keeping a low profile, the opposite happened. "I hadn't learned my lesson yet… my old ways caught up with me," he admitted. He found himself surrounded by bad influences once more.
"These guys were robbing banks - and getting away with it," Walter confessed. Before he knew it, he had joined in on the antics. "After every score, we'd hang out on the strip... and act like big-timers. We felt like gangsters." But the higher he flew, the harder he'd fall...
The Big Heist
It was a hot summer's day in August of 1971. Walter and his fellow co-conspirators were pulling off another string of bank jobs and relishing in their victory. Riding high, knowing how much dough they'd scored, they cruised confidently to the final bank. Little did they know that this robbery wouldn't go as planned…
The bank was rigged with a state-of-the-art security system that was silent. So while Walter and his buddies were filling up on loot, a silent alarm alerted the cops, and they were on their way to the scene. "The police were waiting for us in the parking lot," Miller confessed of the robbery-gone-awry.
Everything that happened next was a blur. "I tried to get away, ducking and weaving, running through cars," Walter remembered of his attempted escape. But before he knew it, a policeman on the scene fired his weapon, and the troubled teen hit the ground. His next memory? Waking up at the hospital chained to the bed.
The wounds he sustained were the smallest of his problems. Once released, the weight of reality came crashing down on him. He was charged and convicted for not one, but two of the robberies he'd committed. He couldn't escape the consequences any longer. "I was going away for a very long time," Walter came to accept.
A Wake Up Call
Trying to maintain optimism, Walter "held out hope for a while." But quickly, he realized how serious his situation was. "I kept hitting dead ends," he confessed. He found himself at Central Prison - a tough-as-nails-prison in North Carolina - with a 25 to 30-year sentence ahead of him. And things only got worse...
"My mama died… that really shook me up," Walter confessed. "Because my entire life, she'd been praying for me to turn my life around. And she never got to see it." With his biggest supporter gone, Walter took a look in the mirror and realized enough was enough. He was going to turn a new leaf in honor of his mother.
Harder Than It Seemed
Committed now more than ever, Miller transformed overnight. "I committed myself to doing better," he recalled. His prison guards took notice of his changed tune, and it worked to his advantage. Walter found himself relocated to a nearby prison that wasn't nearly as strict. "I was relaxed... feeling good," he recalled.
But, just like his previous attempt to start fresh, trouble came knocking. The head guard claimed that Miller had cursed at him, and the spiral began once more. "The negative reports kept piling up... I was one mark away from being sent back up the hill," he remembered of his time on thin ice. Something had to change...
Turning Lemons Into Lemonade
It felt as though all of the hard work Walter had put into righting his reputation was going down the drain. Unwilling to return to the high-security prison, Walter was committed to changing his course, but how? As luck turned out, a punishment he received would prove to be another stroke of luck for the inmate.
He received the worst of the worst when it comes to prison labor jobs: highway clean-up. But the opportunity to step outside the prison gates would hatch another daring plan in Watler's mind. "It was awful," he recalled of his time cleaning up trash. However, it fueled his determination to act... and fast.
The Stars Started Alligning
For about a month, Walter worked out every little detail of his new plan. "I saved up my money, I memorized the bus route," he recalled of the scheming that occupied his mind. Nothing would go wrong this time, he thought. Not like the bank job gone awry that landed him in prison.
And despite all the bad luck he felt he'd been given in his life, one fateful Tuesday proved to be favorable for Walter in a big way. The officer on duty had a reputation for cutting slack - and that was all the inmate needed to know. "[It's] going to be my last night in prison," he thought to himself.
His Big Shot
With his full-proof plan etched into his brain, Walter hopped on the bus to tend to his morning duties - but little did the guards know that it would be his last trip with them. "I cleaned out my locker... no phone numbers. No dresses. Nothing they could use to find me," he recalled of the pre-escape prep.
He made his way to the furthest seats away from the driver and counted down the five minutes (which that day felt like an eternity) until the bus came to a set of lights. Ready with both hands on the emergency door, Miller grabbed his opportunity. "As we slowed down for a stop, I swung open the back door - and I was gone."
Not a Second to Think
With the bus, the unsuspecting guard, and his fellow inmates long behind, Walter did the only thing he knew to do in that moment: run, fast. His dashing escape led him off the main road to avoid suspicion until he couldn't hear the blaring siren of the bus any longer.
With a safe enough distance between him and the bus, Miller finally had a second to breathe - literally. He seized the opportunity to ditch his mud and sweat-soaked jumpsuit, which this whole time were concealing some regular clothes he'd layered on. But the outfit change wasn't enough. "I looked like trouble," he recalled.
Eyes On the Prize
Desperate to put the next phase of his plan into action, Walter dug his way out of the forest and found himself back in the city with a huge priority: locating a bus station ASAP. As long as he remained in North Carolina, he'd be a wanted man - but in Walter's mind, a ticket to NYC would solve his problems.
Desperate to get to the Greyhound station, Walter resorted to begging passersby for a point in the right direction. "Keep going," he was encouraged. And before he knew it, he was standing in the parking lot of the station. With the spare change from a kind bystander, Walter paid his fair and grabbed a seat on the bus.
A New Identity
Having safely pulled out of the parking lot, Walter was on his way from Raleigh to New York with a head full of dreams and fears. Would he be able to cross state lines without being caught? Could he really start a new life... again? His mind was buzzing with thoughts - but he was quickly interrupted.
"What's your name?" his seatmate inquired. Was it an honest approach at small talk or what she already onto him? Walter was paralyzed with fear but managed to answer eventually. "I thought for a moment, and I said: Bobby Love," he remembered. "And that was the death of Walter Miller..."
Making It to the Big Apple
It was late autumn by the time Bobby made it to the city that never sleeps - November of 1977, to be exact. He got off the bus after the seven-hour journey, and suddenly, the weight of his actions hit him like a ton of bricks. "I had to build a life from scratch," he quickly realized.
His freedom came with a cost, and Love didn't have much to his name, just $100 and the clothes on his back. "I was... in a tough spot," he recalled of his first moments in New York City. He found his way to a cheap hotel and kept grinding. But just a fortnight later, reality came knocking once more...
Finding His Way
Despite his efforts to spend that $100 as slowly as possible, it only took two weeks for Bobby to drain his wallet. He spent his nights sleeping at public transportation stations, but deep down, he knew he needed more. "I had to figure out a way to get a foothold in life," he accepted. But how to make it happen?
Having only created "Bobby Love" less than a month ago, the escaped convict certainly didn't have any ID to back his new identity, but it was certainly needed. So, Bobby did what he needed to do. "[I] told the lady a story about losing everything, and she gave me a card," he confessed of his scheme.
Finding His Groove
Getting some government documentation opened plenty of doors for Bobby Love. From a diver's license to financial benefits, he was finding his groove and managing to make ends meet. He even talked his way into some casual work here and there to make some extra cash.
Every day was a hustle - but somehow, young Bobby managed to get through it. From the cheap lodging he managed to score to the work he had lined up, Love was able to breathe just a little bit easier. In fact, work would end up changing his life in a big way.
After spending his days working odd jobs, Bobby managed to get a gig working in the kitchen at a hospital in Brooklyn. Sure, it managed to pay the bills, but it also proved to be a huge blessing. "That's where I met Cheryl," Bobby remembered. Their friendship blossomed into love in a matter of no time.
They say opposites attract, and that was the case with these two lovebirds. "Cheryl was innocent. The opposite of me," Bobby confessed on his attraction. But would Love's skeletons in the closet get in the way of this promising relationship? Only time would tell.
They Said "I Do"
The deeper the two fell in love, the more Love feared his past demons would resurface. "I never told her about Walter. I didn't see the need," he confessed. However, his partner might feel differently if she knew the truth. But that was a risk worth taking, and in 1985 the two lovebirds became husband and wife.
From the moment they said "I do," things only got better for the former convict. Bobby landed a permanent job, and the two got busy building their family, welcoming four children along the way. But the doubts never went away. "I'm not going anywhere, unless somebody takes me," he'd assure himself quietly.
The Truth Felt Life-Ending
Looking back, Bobby didn't realize that his calming mantra would soon come to a reality. But for now, he was committed to keeping up the lie, despite the warnings and pleading his family sent from North Carolina. "You've got to come clean, you've got to tell her," they'd beg him.
And while it was easy for them to say it, it seemed impossible for Bobby to follow through with. "[Cheryl] is a righteous woman," Love confessed. He feared that telling her after all this time would destroy everything they'd accomplished over the years. "She'd turn up the heat," he worried.
Mrs. Love didn't have the full picture yet, but she was a perceptive woman. It didn't take long for her to pick up on the strange vibes in her marriage. "There was a piece missing... something was different," she thought to herself. But what exactly was it?
Suddenly, the man she loved after all these years avoided being photographed and shied away from talking to people on the street. Cheryl didn't know what he was hiding, but the truth was right around the corner. And everything came to a boil in December of 2014.
"I Can't Do This Anymore"
"I remember during Christmas... I was on my knees in church, saying, 'Lord, please, I can't do this anymore,'" Cheryl remembered of the dark chapter. And it appeared her prayers were answered in a way that she never could have expected. Less than a month later, her life would be turned upside-down.
A normal trip down to Bobby's hometown in NC turned into something much bigger. Mr. and Mrs. Love had traveled for a funeral in the family, but little did they know that someone along the way recognized Mr. Love's face and immediately contacted the authorities.
Worse Than She'd Imagined
"My world came crashing down," Mrs. Love confessed of that fateful arrest in New York. "Forty years of marriage, four grown children, and I never knew," she said. "How could I be so stupid?" She watched in disbelief as the dozen of FBI officers whisked her husband away.
And Cheryl wasn't the only one who felt lost following the arrest. "When I first visited him in prison, he broke down," Cheryl remembered of her husband's reaction. "You're going to leave me," Bobby broke down saying. But he was wrong. "I told him, 'Bobby, I married you for better or for worse... this is the worst.'"
Through Thick and Thin
Cheryl wasn't about to abandon her loving husband just like that. "I wrote letters to the governor. I wrote letters to Obama," the dedicated wife recalled of her relentless efforts. "I gathered testimonials from everyone Bobby ever knew." Walter Miller may have been a stranger, but she knew her husband.
And so Cheryl stood before the panel of parole officers and spoke from her heart about the man she loved, Bobby Love: dedicated father and loving husband of four decades. And in the end, it all paid off because her husband was out from jail in just one year. But that's not all...
So, her husband was out of prison and once again a free man. But did that solve all their problems? After all, he had been feeding her a lie for over forty years. From that moment on, they decided honesty was the best policy. "I sat him down and asked... Are we the Loves? ... or the Millers?" For Bobby, the answer was clear.
"He said, 'We Love. We Love.'" And while it wouldn't be easy to work past, Cheryl was committed to making her marriage work. "[Everything's] better for me, better for the kids, and better for Bobby," Cheryl said adoringly of her new and improved family. It was all up from here..."
No More Running
In a sense, Walter had been on the run since 1977. From bank jobs to prison breaks, he hadn't stopped looking over his shoulder since he was a teenager. But finally, after embracing the truth rather than trying to outrun, he learned true peace and happiness.
Whether he was Walter or Bobby, he knew deep down what he really was: a good-hearted father and adoring husband who had turned a new leaf, just like his mother had wanted all those years before. And now he got to live out his life living his full truth.