Who Is Lester Eubanks, a Former Death Row Inmate on the Run?

The convicted murderer disappeared from custody in 1973.

Unsolved Mysteries Volume 2
(Image credit: Richland County Sheriff’s Department)

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 J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.