Donald Eugene Miller, Jr., 61, is dead.
At least, that is what a Hancock County judge told the Fostoria, Ohio, man even though Miller was right there in court, speaking and breathing.
“We’ve got the obvious here,” said Probate Court Judge Allan Davis. “A man sitting in the courtroom, he appears to be in good health.” But the judge went on to tell Miller that because he was ruled legally dead in 1994, he missed the deadline for coming back to life, at least in legal terms, by 16 years.
Under Ohio law, the judge told Miller, there is a three-year limit on getting a legal ruling of death overturned.
“I don’t know where that leaves you, but you’re still deceased as far as the law is concerned,” Davis (pictured) told the disappointed Miller.
The issue may seem like a clear-cut case of a legal system gone mad. But the story is actually a bit more complicated than that.
In 1986, Miller lost his job. He was also an alcoholic. He says that at the time he had no idea what to do with his life. So he hit the road and became a drifter, supporting himself with odd jobs and traveling as far away as Florida.
But his ex-wife, Robin Miller, has a different story. She says that Miller owed about $26,000 in unpaid child support and skipped town because he was scared of a jail term. She waited eight long years during which Miller, by his own admission, never even tried to contact his own children.
In 1994, she petitioned successfully to have her husband declared dead so that their two children would become eligible for Social Security death benefits.
Miller resurfaced in Ohio in 2005, at which time he learned that he was dead in the eyes of the law. Being dead makes him ineligible for Social Security benefits. So he petitioned to be declared once again alive.
But his ex says that can’t happen. If it does, she will be forced to repay the benefits that she collected while he was dead, she says. She does not have enough money to do that.
Judge Davis sais his hands were tied, but acknowledged that the case was “a strange, strange situation.”
Sources: The Courier, UPI