Thirty-three years after the murder of her brother, Valerie Waller can finally rest assured in the knowledge that his murderer has been apprehended. Joseph Lewis Miller was arrested on Monday in Texas, more than 1,000 miles away from Pennsylvania, where he is alleged to have shot Thomas Waller, 34. When she learned of the capture of Miller, Valerie Waller, 65, cried tears of joy. Neighbors and friends who know Miller were stunned to find out that the church deacon is a two-time murderer in hiding.
After the 1981 murder of Thomas Waller in the Times Hotel and Bar parking lot, Miller fled to Pennsylvania. According to Valerie Waller, Miller and her brother had engaged in an argument inside of the bar. Thomas Waller left the bar with a friend. As he sat in his friend’s car, Miller neared and tapped on the window before shooting Thomas Waller in the head. Prosecutors charged him in absentia with three felonies in addition to the murder charge and issued a warrant for his arrest. At the time, Miller had already served one prison sentence for another murder to which he had pleaded guilty in 1959; a murder in which he fired a shotgun at a couple and killed John H. Lumpkins. He was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Lumpkins, but a previous Pennsylvania governor, Raymond P. Shafer, commuted his sentence in 1971. When contacted about his commuted sentence, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons stated that they would need time to locate the records related to the commutation.
Miller remained a fugitive until a task force led by the U.S. Marshals Service examined the case. After translating an earlier tip, they learned that Miller had been in Mexico, living under the name of his deceased cousin. Investigators were able to trace that name to Miller. With that information, they were able to locate the fugitive quite easily in Texas. Authorities report that Miller owned up to his identity and surrendered without incident, even confessing to the murder after he was arrested.
Upon his capture, Miller, 78, was a church deacon in Mineola, Texas, a town with a population of 4,500. Miller led his life under the name of Roy Eubanks. He worked at a local paper factory and walks with the help of a cane. He is also stricken with arthritis and has a pacemaker implanted into his chest and collected disability benefits from Social Security. He married twice in Texas, and his last marriage occurred in 2010. On Monday, his wife, Gennell Eubanks, stated to The Associated Press that Miller had confessed to murdering somebody during “the accident that happened” years ago and had told her that he had killed somebody in order to protect his brother. Miller was well-known in Mineola and served on several neighborhood boards and committees.
Valerie Waller had never given up hope that her brother’s killer would be found. Last year, she appealed to the mayor of Harrisburg to help find the fugitive. Now that Miller has been found, Valerie Waller hopes that some of the pain his family has endured will be eased. Thomas Waller was born on December 25, making every Christmas since his death a very sad occasion.
By Jennifer Pfalz