Donald Eugene Miller Jr walked out of a courtroom as a legally dead man on Monday. The Ohio, U.S. man was declared dead in 1994. And even though he showed up alive and well in court, a judge still refused to reverse his death declaration.
Judge Allan H Davis of Hancock County Probate Court declared Mr Miller dead in 1994 at the request of his then-wife Robin Miller. It was eight years after he mysteriously disappeared from their rental home, and Ms Miller had requested his death to be legally recognised so she could apply for Social Security benefits for their two daughters.
Mr Miller wasn't dead, though. Unbeknownst to her, he just left his family in 1986 to work in Georgia and Florida. He explained that he was unsure what to do next after he lost his job.
As an alcoholic, he never sought treatment for his addiction. He also never contacted his children after he abandoned them.
He returned in Findlay, Ohio in 2005, and has showed up to Ms Miller in 2012 with his girlfriend. Ms Miller, who coincidentally has remarried to a man whose surname is also Miller, recalled that it was a civil reunion.
Mr Miller wanted to have his legal status back so he would be able to work with a valid Social Security number and apply for a driver's license, but Judge Davis has refused to have his death declaration reversed.
Citing Ohio's law that it doesn't allow a declaration of death to be reversed after three years or more have passed, the judge denied Mr Miller's request during a 30-minute hearing on Monday.
"I don't know where that leaves you, but you're still deceased as far as the law is concerned," local newspaper The Courier has quoted the judge as saying to the 61-year-old Mr Miller.
Records show that Mr Miller avoided paying taxes and child support for his children. He owes more than $25,000 in arrears. If his death declaration had been reversed, his ex-wife would have been ordered to pay back the benefits she received for her daughters in almost two decades.
Ms Miller said she wasn't being vindictive toward Mr Miller, but, as a nurse who cannot work because of a disability, she could not afford to repay the benefits.
In an interview with the newspaper, Mr Davis admitted that while it seemed absurd that a man who is obviously alive has been denied to be declared alive, the judge's hands are tied.
Mr Miller, who's currently being called in the media as "the most famous dead man alive," has a good argument for appealing the case, but he told the judge that he doesn't have the resources to do so.