You're still legally dead, judge tells Fostoria man
Donald Eugene Miller Jr. walked out of Hancock County Probate Court on Monday as legally dead as ever.
In 1994, the court ruled that Miller was legally dead, eight years after he disappeared from his Arcadia rental home.
The same judge, Allan Davis, ruled Monday that Miller is still dead, in the eyes of the law. Miller's request for a reversal came well after the three-year legal limit for changing a death ruling, Davis said.
Miller, 61, now of Fostoria, spoke softly in court and offered few details about his past.
Miller said he was an alcoholic who was unsure what to do after losing his job.
"My paycheck was being taken away from me and I had nothing left," he said.
"It kind of went further than I ever expected it to," Miller said. "I just kind of took off, ended up in different places," he said.
He said he briefly worked odd jobs in Atlanta and Marathon, Fla., after leaving Hancock County sometime before 1990.
His parents informed him of his "death" upon his return to Ohio in about 2005, he said.
Miller told Judge Davis he neither sought alcohol treatment nor contacted his children in the time after he left.
Miller said he would like to start his life again, or "whatever's left of it." He asked the court to reverse its 1994 death ruling so he can reinstate his canceled Social Security number and driver's license.
The court said no.
Miller may still be able to challenge the Social Security Administration in federal court. However, his attorney, Francis Marley, said Miller does not have the resources to do so.
"My client's here on a wing and a prayer today," Marley said.
Miller's ex-wife, Robin Miller, had asked for the death ruling so Social Security death benefits could be paid to their two children.
Donald Miller was last reported in Arcadia around 1986 and was declared dead in 1994, she has said.
Robin Miller declined to testify on Monday.
She said after the court hearing that Donald Miller left the state with hefty child support bills. He was scared of a jail term, she said.
He owed about $26,000 in overdue child support by 1994, she has said.
Robin Miller opposed his request for a change in the death ruling, because she does not want to repay the Social Security benefits. She does not have the money, she said.
Robin Miller said it would be fine if his Social Security number was reinstated. She said she sympathizes with him, but points to his decisions.
Judge Davis referred to Donald Miller's case as a "strange, strange situation."
"We've got the obvious here. A man sitting in the courtroom, he appears to be in good health," Davis said.
Miller made a decision to leave the state to avoid paying child support, Davis said.
But the three-year time limit on the death ruling is clear, Davis said.
"I don't know where that leaves you, but you're still deceased as far as the law is concerned," Davis said.
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