Judge Explains to Ohio Man that he is Legally Dead

Saturday, October 12, 2013
(book edited by John Joseph Adams)

Donald Eugene Miller Jr. of Ohio was declared legally dead nearly 20 years ago after he walked out on his life and disappeared. But Miller never died, and now he’s struggling to convince the legal system that he should live again.


In 1986, Miller was out of work and behind on his child support payments. He turned to alcohol, and wound up drifting out of the state. He worked briefly at jobs in Georgia and Florida.


“It kind of went further than I ever expected it to,” Miller told the Hancock County Probate Court. “I just kind of took off, ended up in different places.”


Meanwhile, his ex-wife, Robin Miller, saw no hope that he would ever re-surface, or that she would be paid the $26,000 in past child support payments that was due her. So, in 1994, she asked a local court to rule her husband legally dead so she could collect Social Security death benefits for their two children.


The court granted her request, making Donald Miller officially deceased eight years after he disappeared. He didn’t discover his legally-dead status until 2005, when his parents clued him in.


This week, Miller—age 61—appeared before Judge Allan Davis and asked that the legally dead ruling be reversed.


Miller’s wife, who did not testify, urged the court to deny her ex’s request because she couldn’t afford to repay the Social Security payments she had collected—which she might have been required to do if Miller was ruled to be alive.


In the end, Judge Davis refused to reverse the original decree, citing the three-year legal limit for changing a death ruling.


He called the case a “strange, strange situation,” telling CNN that “in over 40 years, I've never come across a case like this.”


Miller, still legally dead, now has 30 days to appeal the judge’s decision.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

You're Still Legally Dead, Judge Tells Fostoria Man (by Ryan Dunn, Findlay Courier)

Living, Breathing Man Will Remain Dead in the Eyes of Ohio Law (by Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley, CNN)

$586,000 in Political Donations Made Since 2009…by 32 Dead People (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

USDA Paid $36 Million in Aid Money to Dead Farmers for Four Years (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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