How Did Pennsylvania Killer, Joseph Lewis Miller, Evade Police for 33 Years and Fool a Texas Church Into Letting him Serve as a Deacon?

Using an alias, Joseph Lewis Miller had received Social Security disability benefits for more than two decades, officials said.
Using an alias, Joseph Lewis Miller had received Social Security disability benefits for more than two decades, officials said.

At long last, Joseph Lewis Miller’s double life, carefully constructed over decades here, was beginning to unravel. Just not in the manner one might expect. 

The fraying ends in Miller’s meticulously manufactured existence as a church deacon had nothing to do with his status as a fugitive fleeing a 1981 murder charge in Harrisburg.

Rather, it had to do with the ravages of time.

Miller had stolen away to Texas and lived there for 33 years, failing to answer felony charges stemming from the 1981 fatal shooting of Thomas Waller outside a Harrisburg hotel. Previously, Miller had pleaded guilty to the 1959 killing of John H. Lumpkins in Harrisburg, serving more than 11 years before the governor commuted his sentence.

But by most accounts — save for a slipup in 1988 that resulted in his arrest but didn’t blow his cover — Miller had made the most of his model life as Roy Eubanks.

He married two women. He bought a former mom-and-pop grocery store along a highway route and turned it into a home. He had a legion of friends in this East Texas town. He was a known man in the community, prominent in his church and all around town.

He sat on the zoning hearing board. He volunteered at the local food pantry. And he performed odd jobs as a handyman, often refusing payment from his fixed-income clients.

But the ordinary problems of a mundane life caught up with Miller long before U.S. marshals showed up at his doorstep April 21.

Failing health, mounting money troubles and community decisions that recently had gone against him were bringing an inglorious end to Miller’s long and good run in Mineola.

His house — the best-maintained and most manicured on a ramshackle block on South Pacific Street — is up for sale. Miller had no choice, according to the city administrator. This, after the Mineola zoning board — the same body Miller sat on for years — had turned him down for a zoning change.

Miller sought to have his corner property re-zoned from commercial to residential. He desperately needed the designation in order to qualify for a reverse mortgage, allowing him to tap cash from his home without giving it up.

But when the zoning ruling came down against him, Miller had little choice but to sell.

Perhaps as a one-time town official, Miller thought his former membership on the zoning board would buy him a break. But the board determined that the change would amount to spot zoning, the city administrator said. “We couldn’t change the zoning,” city administrator David Stevenson concluded.

It was game over for Miller in Mineola. But the fugitive — convicted and later paroled in one killing and charged in another — didn’t lash out.

“He was disappointed,” Stevenson said of Miller’s reaction to the decision last year that would uproot his carefully constructed Mineola life. “He never made any threats or showed anger.”

When the for-sale sign showed up in Miller’s front yard, he played it off to neighbors as if it was of his choosing, saying he planned to move out to the countryside. He never mentioned the reverse mortgage, the zoning battle or the city board’s decision that had given him no choice.

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Source: | John Luciew

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