Content warning: rape, attempted rape, murder. Lester Eubanks, whose grisly murder of a teenage girl, Mary Ellen Deener, landed him on death row, subsequently escaped from prison and has been on the run for nearly five decades. The story of the crime and Eubanks' escape is covered in volume two of Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries in the hope that it may perhaps lead to the one defining tip in the case—which may finally bring him back into custody, and allow peace for Deener's grieving family.
According to those who knew him, Eubanks was a loner, a creative man who was also secretive and a predator. He already had a record of sexual offenses by 1965 when he murdered Mary Ellen Deener, 14, during an attempt to assault her. Deener had gone a short walk to get change while her sister waited at the laundromat. The ensuing case, though devastating, was legally straightforward—Eubanks confessed (although he later pled insanity), and he showed no remorse for the crime. He was sentenced to death.
In 1972, Eubanks' sentence was commuted to life in prison because the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. He ingratiated himself with the guards and the system at large, becoming a part of the prison artist program and known as a model inmate. Due to good behavior, he was allowed to go, unescorted, on a shopping trip in December 1973. He disappeared and has not been seen since—and he'd had an increase in visitors in the weeks leading up to the outing, which may have indicated he was preparing to flee and that he may have had help. (He was not the only inmate to escape, apparently, and the program was swiftly cut for fairly obvious reasons.)
It was thought that Eubanks was working in Alabama for a time, but he'd left by the time investigators learned about it. The trail has run cold since then.
Authorities believe Eubanks spent time in Los Angeles, CA, and Michigan as "Victor Young." LAPD detective Tim Conner says they've had credible tips about Eubanks from several states, including Florida, Georgia, Alabama, California, and Ohio, but none about his current whereabouts. Eubanks would be in his 70s now.
"He’s very cunning; he’s not a dumb guy," Conner said. "He’s been avoiding the authorities for forty-plus years. I don’t think he ever took a job where he needed to be fingerprinted or photographed. I don’t he ever took employment that ever did any background check. He was a guy who didn’t lay his head in any one place for very long."
Eubanks was added to the U.S. Marshal's list of most-wanted criminals in 2018. One compelling aspect of his case as of the moment is authorities' desire to compare Eubanks' son's DNA to DNA samples from around the country (so-called "familial searches"). The FBI's policy prohibits the use of family DNA, even when the family member is willing. In this case, the anonymous man, who says Eubanks raped his mother, said he wanted Eubanks to be caught.
If you have information about Eubanks, visit unsolved.com.
Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.
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