In 1994, an Ohio court declared Donald E. Miller Jr. dead. He had been missing for several years and his wife needed to formalize his death to qualify her daughters for social security benefits. On Monday, Donald E. Miller appeared in court to testify on behalf of his own existence. He lost.
Almost twenty years after he was declared legally dead, Miller reappeared on the front lawn of his former wife's home, having fled from Ohio in 1986 while dealing with alcoholism and unemployment.
"My paycheck was being taken away from me and I had nothing left," Miller told the court. "It kind of went further than I ever expected it to. I just kind of took off, ended up in different places."
Miller, now 61, wants his social security number reactivated and would like to apply for a driver's license. Unfortunately, Ohio state law does not allow for a declaration of death to be reversed after three years have passed since the declaration. On Monday, Judge Allan H. Davis of Hancock County Probate Court, who had declared Miller dead in 1994, declared him legally dead again with Miller in attendance.
“I don’t know where that leaves you, but you’re still deceased as far as the law is concerned,” Judge Davis told Miller on Monday.
The former Ms. Miller (who, coincidentally, remarried a man also with the surname Miller, so I guess the once-and-always Ms. Miller is more accurate), is also fighting against her former husband's resurrection. If he comes back to life, Ms. Miller would have to pay back years of benefit payments for her daughters.
Stranger still, it seems like the reconciliation between Ms. Miller and her former (legally dead) husband was pretty amiable.
She first learned that Mr. Miller was alive when he showed up in front of her home more than a year ago, sitting at a picnic table with his girlfriend. “I said, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ ” recalled Ms. Miller, who has married again to a man whose surname is also Miller. “It was civil the whole time. We were both very nice.”
For now however, Donald E. Miller Jr. remains a very living dead man.
“Every time you think you’ve seen everything,” the judge said in court, “something like this comes along.”