A Michigan mom was married for more than a decade to a man who called her his soul mate and his companion for life when she discovered that he was keeping a devastating secret. Faye Miller's husband was also married to two other women.
Like many spouses, Miller struggled to keep her marriage to Kenneth Mitchell afloat after 21 years together. During the course of their relationship, she says she made sacrifices, including giving up her career as a PhD-educated teacher of the deaf to support his career as a successful podiatrist and care for their two young boys.
When they first met, Miller said "it definitely was an attraction at first sight. Absolutely. There's an aura about him. He's very charismatic."
She never complained when her husband always seemed to be tending to patients and networking at conventions.
"My friends would joke with me and say that I'm a single mom with benefits," Miller said. "Because I was. I was the mom and the dad to my kids, because my husband was not around. But I gave him that freedom, because I felt that he was doing what he needed to do for the family to support us."
Miller had moved far away from her family to be with her husband in Michigan, and last August, after her mother died of cancer, she sought solace in a grief counselor. At her counselor's advice, she began to closely examine her own marriage.
"I started taking more charge, trying to figure out why the marriage wasn't what I had hoped it would be," she said. "And I started doing a Google search."
What popped up was like a punch in the gut. Mitchell was married to another woman for the first three years of his marriage to Miller, making their union invalid.
"That brought me to my knees," Miller said. "What I thought was, 'Oh my God, my children are illegitimate.'"
Miller says she went online because she had questions about her husband's previous marriage.
"I would say in passing, 'Well, I've never seen the papers or whatever,' hoping that I could at least see the paper," she recalled. "He said, 'No, they're in California.' You know, made excuses about why he couldn't show me the divorce papers. And I accepted them. "
Kenneth Mitchell's Two Other Marriages
The couple wasn't married until 1999, but in love letters to Miller dated seven years earlier, Mitchell even writes of getting divorced from his first wife, and that he "anticipates no trouble with the divorce."
In one letter, Mitchell wrote that in "Six to eight months I will be divorced. You're my soul mate, my companion for life."
Mitchell's attorney says that the overlap in the marriages was simply human error.
"Unfortunately he thought he was divorced by his first wife, and it turns out he was mistaken," said lawyer Stephen A. Barker.
But the deception didn't end there. Incredibly, Miller discovered a third marriage. After searching through phone statements, she decided to call a number that was frequently dialed from her husband's cell. She heard a familiar voice -- the voice of a woman he previously dated.
"I said, "How are you?" And she said to me, "Faye, I think we have a problem,'" Miller recalled.
Miller says the woman then told her "you're married to my husband."
"It just devastated me," Miller said. "Absolutely devastated me."
Mitchell's attorney denies that there was ever a third marriage.
"His understanding was that he was helping out a lifelong friend who was trying to avoid a forced arranged marriage from the old country, and she had asked him to go through a kind of sham ceremony," Barker said.
"Their answer to our allegations was that it was just a Muslim ceremony," Miller's attorney Robert Zivian said. "That it's not an official ceremony according to Canadian law."
Miller says she was in denial that her husband could be deceiving her.
"You know, I think maybe in the back of my mind, I was suspicious," she said. "But I certainly didn't want to face that that could be a possibility."
Miller says she asked Mitchell to leave and both her lawyer and her husband's lawyer say she should be granted an annulment. Mitchell still visits his sons, but Miller says the experience has been difficult for them.
"You know, we always had the family," she said, choking up. "I didn't want to do this. They're just sad to lose their dad. And -- you know, a change is always hard."
Her life has crumbled around her, but Miller says she has grown and found herself despite the pain.
"My old self has come back, which I am thankful for," she said. "I think part of my misery was -- in the last few years is that I gave up who I was. And I'm finding myself again. And the future's bright."