Missing Persons

Air Force Veteran Found Living Double Life 40 Years After He Vanished

He went missing in 1977.

Forty years after failing to report for duty, an Air Force deserter was found living under an assumed name in Florida.

Sixty-four-year-old Jeffrey Michels was arrested October 12 by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office and charged with military desertion before being handed over to the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations, according to the Miami Herald. Police say under the alias Jeffrey Lantz he opened a construction business and raised a family.

Michels was born in East Liverpool, Ohio and was 24 when he went missing from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota on July 6, 1977. That was the last anyone who knew him under that name ever heard from him presumably.

Though it’s currently unknown when he made his way to Florida and assumed the surname Lantz, he used it in 1998 to obtain a license for his construction business, the Atlantic Development Corporation. He later bought a home in Sanford, Florida’s Terra Bella neighborhood, even becoming president of the local home owner’s association, according to ABC affiliate WFTV. He married and had children with his wife, Karla.

While the Air Force has yet to reveal how they found Michels, WFTV says that, in July, a photo of him was posted to the Facebook group Veteran Doe, which tries to help identify missing and unidentified persons with a military connection. The post was taken down after Michels was apprehended.

According to the website American Military News, Michels will not face a court-martial and his punishment is not expected to be punative. “The statute of limitations ran out, and Michels won’t be charged or court-martialed,” the website quotes Special Agent John P. Longmire IV. “He has been brought back onto active duty at his previous rank of E-3. He will be given a discharge under ‘Other Than Honorable’ conditions.”

[Photo: Seminole County Sheriff's Office]

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