The well-chiseled life of Bobby Love came to a halt at around 6:30 a.m. Jan. 2015, when New York police officers and FBI agents showed up at his door asking him: “What is your name? No, what’s your real name?” Cheryl, Bobby’s wife, opened the door that morning believing that the police had the wrong apartment. She stood in a state of confusion as she pulled the edges of her robe close. Then, Cheryl watched as about a dozen officers and agents pushed their way into the couple’s Brooklyn home.
Growing up in the Jim Crow South, Bobby’s legal troubles began before his 14th birthday. Born Walter Curtis Williams, he didn’t have an easy childhood. His parents had a tumultuous relationship and the adults he encountered back then didn’t always give him the benefit of the doubt. This led a once industrious child, who would go from door-to-door asking to mow lawns to become a young man who often stole and ended up in juvenile detention.
Bobby eventually moved to Washington D.C. and started hanging out with the kind of crowd that robbed banks in North Carolina. Eventually, he was caught and received a 30-year prison sentence. After serving six years of that sentence, Bobby staged a jailbreak, leaving prison life behind. He changed his name to “Bobby Love,” and would eventually meet Cheryl, becoming a loving husband and father who took his kids to amusement parks and attended church.
It’s never easy to outrun your past, and decades later, all that he tried to keep secret has since been unearthed. Now Bobby is telling his story in The Redemption of Bobby Love, a new memoir he has written with his wife, Cheryl. The two spoke to BET.com about how they salvaged their relationship, how he escaped from prison and ultimately kept the aspects of his two lives completely separate.
BET.com: The book starts from your perspective, Cheryl, and you mention that you always felt like your husband had a secret. Was that based on his actions or things he would say?
Cheryl Love: It was more of a gut feeling. Plus, there were things he would do. Sometimes when we were talking, he wouldn’t want to finish the conversation and tell me that we would talk about it later. There were times when I felt he wasn’t affectionate to me, and I would ask him if he had another family somewhere.
There were also times when he would shut down or go someplace and be isolated. It was also a little weird to me that he wouldn’t want to take pictures. I didn’t notice these things when we first met, only as I started to get to know him. Even when we went to church, I would want to go up front and pray, and he would say that he felt like a hypocrite.
BET.com: Bobby, what were you thinking when she asked these questions? Did you feel guilty because you weren't being forthcoming?
Bobby Love: My wife is brutally honest, and the first thing she would have told me to do is turn myself in and that would have meant going back to jail, where I said I was never going back. I was upset that it caught up to me, knowing where I was gonna end up. I didn't know exactly what was going to happen or how long it would take before I could come home.
BET.com: Bobby, did you avoid your family spending time with Cheryl and your kids since they didn't know you as Bobby Love?
Bobby Love: I had contact with them. They met my wife and kids. My two daughters spent time with my sister as they were growing up. Plus, my family never called me Walter; I never used that name. My mother told me that Walter was a distinguished name, but I didn't believe it, and I didn't like it. My family called me Buddy.
BET.com: What did you think when you heard his family calling him Buddy instead of Bobby?
Cheryl Love: I never thought anything of it because people have nicknames. [I found out] his name when he was arrested, and his lawyer called me and said, 'Mrs. Love when you go to see Mr. Love ask for Walter Curtis Miller. I asked if that was the facility that Bobby was in, and everything got quiet. You could hear crickets. She said, 'No, Mrs. Love. Just ask for that name.'
BET.com: What made you decide to escape from prison?
Bobby Love: Well, I was doing 25 to 30 years, and I had done six years. I had made honor grade which meant that I would be shipped to a lesser secure prison. And I was doing well; I was working at two, three different jobs, but it seemed that every time I took a step forward, I was being kicked back. I was getting written up for some of the silliest things.
One day while working with the road crew cleaning the highway and picking up paper, I decided that I was gonna get myself out. I didn't know how but I realized that I could walk out the gate with a bag in my hand and the jacket they issued me, and no one would stop me.
I got onto the bus and went to the back. As we were pulling into where we were going to work, I jumped off the bus and ran into the woods. I changed my clothes, and I ran. I just kept running and walking until I made my way downtown to Raleigh to the bus station.
BET.com: What changed for you this time? Why do you think you were able to stay out of trouble after that escape?
Bobby Love: I made a declaration to myself that I was never getting into any more trouble. I was not going to go places where trouble could start. I never wanted to go back to jail ever again. I was living uptown in Harlem in a one-bedroom apartment. I got a job. I would get on the train to go to work and then come back straight to my apartment. I bought a stereo, and I would just listen to music.
BET.com: How did you two meet?
Cheryl Love: We met while working together at Baptist Medical Center. Bobby was loud, and he made us laugh. He would sing, and though he was out of tune, I also thought he was cute. He was a good guy. One day he asked me out on a date, and at first, I said no because I thought he might have been too old for me, but then he said he wanted to take me to a Gladys Knight & The Pips concert, and I said ok, and that is how it all started.
Bobby Love: Cheryl says that the first time we went out was to see Gladys Knight & The Pips, but my recollection is that we went to see the movie Purple Rain with another couple.
BET.com: After the arrest in 2015, were you worried that you would lose your wife?
Bobby Love: Yes, I was. But the first time Cheryl came to visit me on Rikers Island, I told her that I wouldn’t be surprised if she wanted to divorce me. She told me that she would see me through this and work to get me out of the predicament I was in.
BET.com: Cheryl, how long did it take you to get over the fact that he had deceived you for so long?
Cheryl Love: When those cops came in, I was not thinking about myself. I was thinking about Bobby and how he had held on to something like this all these years. Bobby also called me and reminded me that this was all before the kids and me. I said, 'Bobby, I'm with you, and the kids are too.'
Later, I did think about how he had deceived me. I started to weigh things out, and I prayed and spoke with family and friends. I didn't know who Walter was, but I knew Bobby. He is the man that worked two to three jobs. He cooks. He cleans. I love him, and he loves me. I had to go with that.
BET.com: So, I guess love is what kept the Loves together?
Bobby Love: Yes.
Cheryl Love: Let me say now love conquers all. I'm telling it, love; it conquers all.
The Redemption of Bobby Love by Bobby and Cheryl Love with Lori L. Tharps is available now.
Meet the Loves below:
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.