Barry Saunders

One man’s journey from NC prison to New York – and back

They found Love on a two-way street, but only after the N.C. Department of Correction lost him on a lonely highway.

Or somewhere.

No one’s sure precisely how Bobby Love escaped from the Triangle Correctional Center on Nov. 8, 1977, but he was captured Jan. 22, 2015, by the New York Police Department and FBI in the Brooklyn apartment he shared with his wife and children.

Love, you see, wasn’t Love when he walked away that fall day 37 years ago. He was then known as Walter Miller, and he fled while serving a 30-year sentence for robbery and armed robbery with a firearm.

Keith Acree, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Public Safety, said Miller robbed the Coburn Finance Co. on North Elm Street in Greensboro on June 21, 1971. He was charged with two counts of robbery because there was one incident, but two people robbed, Acree said.

Off to New York

During the six years he pulled in prison, Miller had five infractions for disobeying orders.

Rather than hanging around the minimum security Triangle Correctional Center, which was shut down in 1994, Miller – taking a cue from Lisa on “Green Acres” – decided New York was where he’d rather stay.

He is at least the second N.C. escapee to be returned to the pokey in recent months after enjoying decades on the lam. (Sorry folks, but I just watched a “Dragnet” re-run.)

Ronald Carnes was captured in Iowa last year after walking away from a roadside crew in 1973.

In an interview with a New York newspaper, Miller, too, said he was on a prison work detail when he opened the rear latch of the bus he was on and walked away.

Miller said he was wearing his civilian clothes under his prison uniform and paid a man at the bus station $10 to buy him a ticket to Manhattan.

Acree said officials “have no way to confirm” Miller’s version of events. “Our records don’t reflect that.”

Acree’s records do reflect, though, that Miller had become eligible for parole 13 months before he split. He didn’t know if Miller had had a parole hearing.

“He’s parole-eligible now,” Acree said, before adding, “He’ll probably have a new sentence because of the escape.”

It looks as though when Miller turned his back on the prison work detail, he also turned his back on his life of crime: Neither of his names turned up in criminal databases.

In the New York newspaper interview, Miller said he met Cheryl, his wife, in the 1980s when they were both employed at Baptist Medical Center in Brooklyn. Their first dates included the Prince movie “Purple Rain” and a concert by Gladys Knight and the Pips.

They were married on March 30, 1985, and had four children. The story said Love invited his siblings to the nuptials in the community center at the Pink Houses housing project in Brooklyn and that he was identified on the marriage license as Bobby Allan Love, born (Walter C. Miller) on 11/6/50.

He has a sister in law enforcement in North Carolina, but calls and email messages left for her were not returned.

Uncertainty

Just as no one’s officially sure how Miller got away, neither is anyone in law enforcement sure exactly how he was found. If they are sure, they’re sure not talking. All that’s been reported is that FBI and NYPD knocked on his family’s door early one morning and took him away. A neighbor who said she witnessed his arrest told a TV station that cops waited until Miller was out of view of his unsuspecting family before handcuffing him.

That was nice of them.

Miller said in the interview that he thinks a family member who’s in law enforcement ratted him out when he returned to North Carolina – as he said he sometimes did – for a wedding, funeral or other family gathering.

What? You mean you can’t even trust a cop in your own family?

Saunders: 919-836-2811 or bsaunders@newsobserver.com

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