On the day that Airman Apprentice Antonio D. Miller ditched his Navy unit and deserted from the Navy, “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees was the number one song in America, Jimmy Carter was president and junior enlisted sailors couldn’t even begin to explain the meaning of #FYP.
But desert Miller did, on April 14, 1978, giving the slip to his Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, command and remaining on the lam until May of last year, when the long arm of Navy law finally caught up with him, more than 44 years later.
Miller was court-martialed in Norfolk on Aug. 5 on a charge of desertion, according to Navy court records.
Navy officials did not provide his age, but the Tennessee man was sentenced to a bad-conduct discharge, reduction in rank to E-1 and two months of confinement, although he was credited with 79 days of pre-trial confinement.
A chunk of his pre-trial time in jail occurred in Hamilton County, Tennessee, the state where his run from the law came to an abrupt stop.
Miller’s decades of desertion ended May 19, when he was arrested by police in the small Tennessee town of Soddy-Daisy, according to police records obtained by Navy Times.
Officers responded to a residence that day on reports of a “prowler,” according to the Soddy-Daisy Police Department.
They found Miller, who said he was seeing if his former employer, who lived at the address, was home.
Questioned by officers, he provided an ID card for his brother, Curtis Miller, but police soon confirmed that Curtis Miller had actually passed away in 2010, according to records.
“The male constantly stated he was Curtis and had to go to Nashville to get the issue resolved,” the responding officer wrote.
Police called another Miller brother, William Miller, who confirmed that Curtis Miller had passed away, and that the man using his ID was actually another brother, the wanted junior sailor, Antonio Devasco Miller.
“William stated ‘he was not f---- lying’ … and that his brother’s real name was ‘Antonio Devasco Miller,’” the responding officer wrote. “I then asked William where the Spanish name came to be when his other brothers were Winston, Earl, Curtis and William. He stated ‘a Mexican was his father’s f----- best friend and he was named after him.’ I ended the phone call due to William being irate.”
Miller was arrested and charged with criminal impersonation, according to police records.
That same day, police contacted a woman named Roberta Brock, who was the aunt of Curtis Miller’s son, according to police reports.
She said she was only supposed to call Miller “Dusty,” and “was never to speak his real name, Antonio Devasco Miller, due to him being wanted by the military,” police records state.
Brock added that Miller “carried his dead brother’s license (Curtis J. Miller) and passes himself off as his dead brother.”
Soddy Daisy officials did not respond to follow-up questions and referred further inquiries about Miller’s long-overdue apprehension to a local FBI field office, which declined to comment.
Neither Antonio Miller nor any of the other family members mentioned in the police report could be reached for comment.
Miller’s service record shows he stayed at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, from June 8 to to his Aug. 5 trial date.
After that, he spent nearly a month with the Transient Personnel Unit in Norfolk, a temporary command for sailors leaving the service.
His current whereabouts remains unclear.
Miller, separated on Sept. 1, nearly 46 years after enlisting in May 1976.
The Navy is currently tracking 128 deserters, officials said Wednesday.
Like Miller, 81 have been AWOL for more than 20 years.
“Service members remain in an active deserter status until they turn themselves in, are captured, or are verified as deceased,” Navy Personnel Command spokesman Cullen James said in an email.
Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.