UPDATED: 9:45 a.m. ET, Oct. 15, 2021
Originally published: Feb. 5, 2020
The story of Bobby Love made headlines in 2016 when the escaped convict-turned-family man was released from prison after living a double life for decades. Born Walter Miller, Love turned his life around after absconding from a North Carolina prison and meeting his now-wife, Cheryl Love, with whom he shares four children. Unbeknownst to Cheryl, her beloved husband, whom she thought was a law-abiding citizen, served a 10-year prison sentence for a bank robbery prior to them meeting at Baptist Medical Center in Brooklyn.
On Friday, the married couple visited the set of the “TODAY” show to discuss the new book, “The Redemption of Bobby Love.”
Bobby Love’s story was revisited on social media last year on the Instagram page for “Humans of New York,” which rose to infamy for recovering the intimate and captivating stories of New York City residents. The post revisited his story from his wife’s perspective.
Cheryl Love spoke to “Humans of New York” and explained what happened the day she realized her husband had been living a double life for years. “It was just a normal morning. Almost exactly five years ago. I was making tea in the kitchen. Bobby was still in bed. And we get this knock on the door. I opened it up slowly, and saw the police standing there. At first I wasn’t worried. We had this crazy lady that lived next door, and the police were always checking up on her,” she said.
Love continued, “But the moment I opened the door, twelve officers came barging past me. Some of them had ‘FBI’ written on their jackets. They went straight back to the bedroom, and walked up to Bobby. I heard them ask: ‘What’s your name?’ 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.’ That’s when I tried to get into the room. But the officer kept saying: ‘Get back, get back. You don’t know who this man is.’ Then they started putting him in handcuffs.”
Bobby Love then recounted what led him down a troubled path. He said it all started when he attended a Sam Cooke concert in North Carolina in 1964. He was 14 years old at the time. “I was excited to be at that concert, so I pushed my way to the front row—right near the stage,” he said. “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!'”
Love said that his outburst resulted in an arrest for disorderly conduct. Following his incident, he admitted that he quickly began spiraling out of control. Love said he was one of eight children, so his mother could not control his mischievous behavior. He began stealing purses from unlocked cars and government checks from mailboxes. Love said his actions grew bolder and that is what landed him in a juvenile detention center. “One day I got busted stealing from the band room at school,” he said before revealing that he was sent to Morrison Training School.
Love hated his experience at the juvenile detention center, saying the “food was terrible” and the “kids were violent,” adding that he still has scars from when he got into physical altercations.
“Every night, while I was falling asleep, I could hear the whistle of a freight train in the distance,” he continued. “And I always wanted to know where that train was going. So one night, when the guard turned his back to check the clock, I ran out the back door– toward the sound of that whistle. And that was the first place I ever escaped from.”
Love said he followed those train tracks and went to Washington, D.C. where his brother lived. He made life changes – began attending a new high school, went to class and played basketball. Love described what appears to be a seamless life until he fell victim to his old ways. He befriended a group of kids who robbed banks in North Carolina because there were less surveillance cameras. It wasn’t until they went to one particular bank, which had a silent alarm, that things went downhill and cost Love his freedom.
“The police were waiting for us in the parking lot. All hell broke loose. I tried to get away, ducking and weaving, running through cars. But I got shot in the buttocks. The bullet went right through me. I woke up in the hospital– with a hole in the front and back of my coat,” he said.
Bobby Love said “it was over for Walter Miller.” He was sentenced to twenty-five to thirty years and was sent to Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina. Love said he had hopes of getting an appeal or being released on a technicality. Neither option happened for Love. He also revealed that his mother died while he was incarcerated, which affected him because he said she’d always pray for him to turn his life around, but she would never see him do that.
Her passing changed the trajectory of Love’s time at Central Prison. “I committed myself to doing better. I became the perfect inmate. I never had a mark on my record. My behavior was so good that they transferred me down the hill to a minimum security facility. This place was more like a camp. They still had gun towers and everything, but there was a lot of freedom,” he said.
Love added that he had no intentions of escaping the minimum security facility.
Bobby Love then explained why he escaped from the prison. After someone yelled “punk a**” at the prison captain, things quickly went down hill. Love said he was working in the prison’s kitchen, so it couldn’t have been him. However, he was held responsible. The prison captain consequently began picking on Love. He said the more good deeds he attempted to do, the more punishments he faced. He was eventually given a prison job where he had to ride on a bus all over Raleigh and pick up trash, which he described as the worst job at the prison. He observed that the bus would stop at a wooded intersection and the guard who worked on Tuesday’s would not search the prisoners as they boarded the bus. Love said that is when he decided to make his escape.
Love made it to New York with $100 in small bills, one pair of clothes and his new name. He lived in a “fleabag” motel for two weeks and survived off of hot dogs and marijuana. His money eventually ran out and he ended up having to sleep on the train. Love said the first official document he got was a social security card after explaining that he had lost everything. Then, he found his original birth certificate, scratched out his name and typed “Bobby Love” on the line and photocopied it “so many times that it didn’t look fake anymore.” He later found someone to put a notary stamp his birth certificate. Love also “found a brother at the DMV who pretended not to notice. And that’s how I got my drivers license.” He used all of his new documentation to get a job at the cafeteria of the Baptist Medical Center and that’s where he met his wife, Cheryl Love..
On the death of Walter Miller, Bobby Love said he waited until the “careless” guard stationed at his gate. He didn’t leave anything behind that would allow for him to be traced easily. Love also took the one pair of civilian clothing he was given by working at the prison’s radio station. Love said he sat in the last row of the bus and hopped out when they got to the wooded area. He ran and didn’t look back. Love said he knew he looked suspicious, so he tried to avoid White neighborhoods. However, whenever he saw a Black man, he would ask where the Greyhound Station was. He was told to keep going. On he arrived at the Greyhound station he convinced a man to buy him a one-way ticket to New York. He waited until the last minute to get on the bus, right before the driver closed the door. A woman sat beside him and asked his name, that is when Bobby Love was born.
In a 2016 New York Daily News article, Love said there was something about her husband that kept them slightly distant, but she could never figure it out until police showed up at their door on Jan. 22, 2015. Neither Cheryl nor her children were aware of his crime or the life he lived before becoming Bobby Love. After his arrest, Love was extradited back to North Carolina, where his escape offense was handled through a disciplinary process, leaving him to complete under a year in jail.