UPDATED April 22, 2-14 at 2:07 p.m. CT
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The sister of a man whose suspected killer was arrested 33 years after her brother's death never gave up on the case and cried tears of happiness upon hearing that the long-sought fugitive was caught this week, she said Tuesday.
Just last year, Valerie Waller said, she had asked Harrisburg's mayor for help in capturing the person who killed her 34-year-old brother, Thomas Waller. On Monday, she was in line to buy groceries when her nephew called to tell her that police had contacted him about the capture of the suspect, Joseph Lewis Miller, who was living more than 1,000 miles away in rural East Texas.
"I just broke down crying," Valerie Waller, 65, said. And when the register clerk looked concerned, "I told the young lady, 'These are happy tears; this is good news.'"
Authorities say Miller, who already had served time in prison for murder, fled Pennsylvania after shooting Thomas Waller in a parking lot outside the Times Hotel and Bar in 1981. He was charged with murder and three other felonies, but eluded authorities for three decades.
In recent weeks, a U.S. Marshals Service-led fugitive task force reviewed the case and quickly found Miller, now a 78-year-old church deacon receiving Social Security disability benefits and living quietly with a wife in tiny Mineola.
Miller surrendered and acknowledged his real identity, authorities said. It remains unclear how Miller eluded capture for so long.
Valerie Waller said Miller shot her brother to death after an argument inside the bar. Thomas Waller left with a friend and was sitting in the friend's car when Miller approached and tapped on Waller's window, she said. An arrest warrant was issued for Miller after he had fled.
Monday's arrest brought happiness, but it also hit hard, bringing back some difficult memories of the sadness and anguish of her brother's slaying, Waller said. After his death, every Christmas was a sad one.
"It wasn't a happy time for our family because all we could think of was our brother who was born on Christmas and was murdered," Waller said.
MINEOLA (MCT) — Rick Heath said his neighbor, Roy Eubanks, was always friendly to him.
But on Monday, Heath found out Eubanks’ real name is Joseph Lewis Miller and that he was wanted in Pennsylvania on a murder charge dating back to 1981.
“He committed murder 30 years ago,” Heath said. “I’m sure there was a reason why he did it, good or bad. But things happen. I didn’t feel threatened by him. He waved to me whenever I saw him.”
U.S. marshals arrested Miller, 78, at his home in the 600 block of South Pacific Street at 8:30 a.m. Monday.
Genelle Eubanks, Miller’s wife of four years, said her husband had told her about the Jan. 15, 1981, incident that led to the shooting death of Thomas Waller.
“He told me about that in our second year of marriage, but he said it was an accident,” Genelle Eubanks said. “My husband said that man in Pennsylvania told him he was going to kill his brother. Then the other man went and got a gun; there was a struggle, and it accidentally went off. There wasn’t anything I could do about it, and I just wanted to move on with my life. I didn’t believe it when he told me it happened.”
According to a statement from U.S. Marshal Martin J. Pane, the homicide occurred in a parking lot next to the Times Hotel at the corner of 14th and Regina streets in Harrisburg, Pa.
After the shooting, Genelle Eubanks said, Miller’s family encouraged him to leave the state.
“I have never met his family or talked to them,” she said. “He never went back to Pennsylvania, and nobody knew he was down here.”
Eubanks said her husband was a deacon in the New Life Baptist Fellowship in Quitman for more than 10 years. The couple married four years ago after 20 years of knowing each other.
Miller was arrested in 1959 after using a 12-gauge shotgun to shoot John and Donna Lumpkins, according to Pane’s statement. John Lumpkins died July 4, 1959, from gunshot wounds.
Miller had previously been given a life sentence on Jan. 22, 1960, after he pleaded guilty to the shooting death.
“I don’t believe anything about that,” Genelle Eubanks said. “He never told me anything about that. That’s not him. That man would give you the shirt off his back. People know him as a real nice person and a good man.”
On Feb. 9, 1971, after serving 11 years, six months and 10 days in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Miller was released from prison, the statement read.
Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond P. Shafer commuted Miller’s sentence and placed him on lifetime state parole.
After Waller’s death in 1981 and a subsequent investigation into the homicide, a warrant for Miller’s arrest was signed Feb. 12, 1981 by, by Judge William W. Lipsitt.
The warrant, according to the statement from Pane, charged Miller with murder, crimes committed with a firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon and unlicensed possession of a firearm.
Working with photographs more than 30 years old, U.S. marshals in the Eastern District of Texas and members of their joint East Texas Fugitive Task Force from Tyler on Monday placed a home in the 600 block of South Pacific Street in Mineola under surveillance.
The marshals saw Eubanks, the man they believed to be Miller, and they arrested him with no resistance.
Miller is being held in Wood County Jail pending court proceedings concerning his extradition to Pennsylvania.
There is no word on when Miller will be taken back to Pennsylvania.
“I’m going to see him tomorrow,” Miller’s wife said.
With a population of 4,500 people, Heath said he is not surprised a man with Miller’s history could hide from law enforcement for three decades.
“There is not a lot of attention paid to these small communities,” he said. “It is nice and quiet.”