WASHINGTON (WTOL) - More than 40 years ago, one of the most notorious prisoner escapes in Ohio history occurred. A convicted child murderer, serving a life sentence, just walked away from his handlers and justice.
On Dec. 7, 1973, prison officials took Lester Eubanks to a shopping center in Columbus, Ohio, and allowed him to shop unescorted as a reward for good behavior.
When Eubanks failed to return to his scheduled pick-up location, he was reported as an escapee, and has eluded authorities ever since.
“We are fueled by one thing, and that is justice for 14-year-old Mary Ellen Deener of Mansfield, Ohio, the innocent victim in this case.”
The U.S. Marshals are looking to end Eubanks’ 40-plus years on the lam by adding him to their 15 Most Wanted fugitive list.
“While the Eubanks’ case is designated as a cold case, I want to assure the public our investigation into his whereabouts is very active,” said U.S. Marshals Service Deputy Director David Anderson. “I have total confidence in our deputies and our law enforcement partners who are determine to make sure Eubanks’ last days are spent in a prison cell where justice intended it.”
On Nov. 14, 1965, Eubanks shot and bludgeoned to death Mary Ellen Deener in what law enforcement alleged was an attempted rape. Authorities quickly identified Eubanks as the offender.
He was arrested the next day and charged with first-degree murder while perpetrating rape.
On May 25, 1966, a jury found Eubanks guilty of the crimes and sentenced him to death. In 1972, Eubanks’ death sentence was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“The U.S. Marshals are not deterred by the passage of time when it comes to cases like this one,” said U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott of the Northern District of Ohio. “We are fueled by one thing, and that is justice for 14-year-old Mary Ellen Deener of Mansfield, Ohio, the innocent victim in this case.”
“I think about this case every day and the little girl who was killed,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal David Siler, who has worked the case since January 2016 when it was adopted by the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force cold case unit. “In law enforcement, there are cases that keep you up at night; this is one of those cases.”
The Marshals believe Eubanks is alive and living under an alias.
Over the years, investigative leads placed the long-time fugitive in Michigan and California, but his whereabouts remain a mystery.
“Lester Eubanks has had a lot of time on the lam,” said Siler. “Fugitives on the run as long as Eubanks tend to use that time to change their appearance, use aliases, and even start new lives. He literally could be hiding in plain sight. This is why we are asking citizens to be vigilant and contact us with any information they believe will help us apprehend him.”
Eubanks, 75, is a 5-foot-11 black male with black hair and brown eyes.
At the time of his disappearance, he weighed approximately 175 pounds.
Other unique physical characteristics include a mole under his left eye. He may be using the alias Victor Young to hide his true identity. In 2017, the U.S. Marshals released an age-progression photo of Eubanks.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the nearest U.S. Marshals office or the U.S. Marshals Service Communications Center at 1-800-336-0102. The U.S. Marshals have offered a reward up to $25,000 for information directly leading to Eubanks' arrest.
Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at www.usmarshals.gov