Convicted Child Killer Escapes Execution, On The Run


As we have mentioned before, Netflix’s ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ is a reboot of the iconic and impactful true-crime series of the same name. One could argue that it is what made true crime what it is today. When the reboot launched, many of its cases and episodes featured black victims, something that the original series did not do nearly as much. One such episode was titled ‘Death Row Fugitive. The episode premiered on Netflix as part of the show's 2nd volume. It told the story of how a child killer escaped prison and the authorities in 1973. The young child that he killed went by the name of Mary Ellen Deener. Her murder changed her family’s lives for the worst and they have been seeking proper justice ever since.

On November 14, 1965, 14-year-old Mary Ellen Deener was out helping her mother with some errands. Mary lived with her family in Mansfield Ohio. Growing up as just one of seven children, Mary was used to being an extra helping hand for her mother when needed. On this particular occasion, Mary was out doing the laundry with her 12-year-old sister Brenda. Since the dryer at their house was broken, the sisters decided to take a cab to a nearby laundromat. Mary felt reassured that the laundromat was close to where her grandmother lived and that they could walk there if they needed anything. When Mary went to get quarters for the load, she was told that the laundromat was out. Mary then told her sister to wait there while she went to another laundromat to get some. The one she was walking to was only 5 minutes away. Brenda did as she was told and waited for her sister to return. Sadly, that would never happen.

After a few hours of waiting, Brenda walked to her grandmother's house and told her what happened. Her grandmother almost immediately took to the streets looking for Brenda, and that is when she came upon a group of police. She recalled seeing several police cars and detectives standing around chatting. When she got a little closer and could see past them, she recognized Mary’s body. The detectives told her that Mary had been shot twice in the stomach and had her head beaten with a brick. She was hit so hard and so repeatedly that her skull was shattered. Mary Ellen Deener was the victim of a brutal murder.

The detectives quickly got to work on trying to solve the young girl’s murder. They started with the forensic evidence at the scene, specifically the bullets used to shoot her. When the police were able to determine what the caliber of the bullets was, they went to every local ammunition store to see if they could find a suspect. Miraculously, they had success. The 38-caliber bullets were purchased by 22-year-old Lester Edward Eubanks. Lester Eubanks was known in the community, but not for a good reason. It seemed that Everyone who knew him described him as weird or a loner. While walking around the communities in Ohio, Eubanks would carry nunchucks in his hands while swinging them around wherever he went. Eubanks also spent time in prison and developed a reputation there as well. While he appeared to be quiet and mostly painted by himself, the inmates knew of his opinionated and cocky nature.

Eubanks was also a familiar name for the police. He had a history of being suspected or charged with various sexual offenses. In fact, he was out on bond for an attempted rape charge at the time the police had learned his name. Feeling that they had their man, the police arrested Eubanks as he was leaving the church that Sunday afternoon. It didn’t take much questioning from the police for Eubanks to come clean. He confessed that he saw Mary walking near him on the street and grabbed her after the 2 made eye contact. He pulled her behind a nearby house and attempted to rape her, but she began to scream and fight back. He shot her twice in the stomach with his revolver and ran away from the scene.

According to Eubanks, he frantically ran northward and ducked between an alley and a house. After making sure that the coast was clear, he turned a corner and went inside his home. He then proceeded with his day as if nothing happened. He had plans to go dancing that evening and began to ready. About 45 minutes later, he was walking past the scene where he attacked Mary Ellen Deener and heard something. Mary was still alive and was attempting to make enough noise to be heard. Eubanks then approached her body, picked up a brick, and began hitting her in the head. He then calmly walked away from the scene of the crime. Eubanks would stand trial in May of 1996. He pleaded guilty to his crimes and retold the same horrifying story.

Those who were present for Lester Eubanks’s confession remembered just how cold and unmoved he was while telling the story. He appeared to have even a sense of pride that he murdered a 14-year-old girl in broad daylight. At no point during his talking did he show any remorse or offer an apology for what he had done. That most likely played a factor in his being sentenced to death. Eubanks would never face execution though. His date of execution was pushed back twice for reasons that are still unknown to this day. Then, Eubanks received a lucky break when the death penalty was abolished in 1972. That is when his sentence was changed to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Frustratingly, Eubanks wouldn’t even endure that sentence either.

While serving his life sentence in an Ohio prison, Lester shifted to be with the general population. He made an effort to use his charm and smooth-talking personality to win favor with the prison guards. That allowed him to enter into an honor system. This allowed certain inmates to have special privileges. One of those privileges, the most crucial one in fact, was that those inmates were allowed to leave the prison. On December 7, 1973, Eubanks was allowed to go Christmas shopping with three other inmates. Two guards dropped them off at the Great Southern Shopping Center in Columbus Ohio at 10 a.m. They left them unattended and unsupervised for about four hours and gave them instructions about where they were to return when they were done shopping. By the time the shopping trip was done, Lester Eubanks was long gone.

When the police noticed that Lester hadn’t shown up at the assigned place at the given time, the officers frantically searched the area. Sadly, they were unable to find a trace of him anywhere around the mall. Immediately afterward, a local warrant against him was issued. That warrant was then upgraded to a national one when the FBI got involved a short while later. Despite all of that manpower, the authorities were still unable to find Lester Eubanks.

The police then had to make sense of how Eubanks was able to pull off that escape, to begin with. They quickly suspected that it was a pre-planned elopement. In the weeks leading up to that fateful day, Eubanks saw a massive increase in his visitations. He went from maybe having someone visit once a month, to having someone visit at least once a week. The investigators then questioned everyone who was recorded in his visitation logs, which included mostly family and close friends. None of them offered any information that would be useful to the investigators in this case. It would take 20 long years before the detectives got an update.

A search of the national database showed that all of Eubanks’s warrants had been removed from the system. Interestingly though, there was no way of knowing if that was done intentionally or if it was just a clerical error. Either way, that mistake was corrected and Lester’s face was put on America’s Most Wanted. Soon after, the police got a tip from a woman in Los Angeles. She claimed that she used to go on jogs with Lester and that he used to reside in the city with someone named Kay Banks.

Kay Banks was actually someone who knew Lester. She was the widow of his cousin and has previously been a pen pal of his. When questioned by the investigators, She told them that Lester did live with her up until a few years ago. Their relationship soured when he told her that there were going to be people looking for him in the city. This caused Kay to be worried that she would be wrapped up in whatever he had done. When the police told her exactly what Eubanks had done, she told them everything from the beginning. She claimed that, After fleeing Ohio, Lester went to Michigan for a few weeks because he wanted to see how extensive the search for him was going to be. After enough time had elapsed for him to feel safe enough, he convinced an associate to pay for his bus ticket to California. Interestingly, The bus that he was on was stopped by law enforcement officials on the interstate lines. That is when Lester began to worry that his free days were coming to an end. It turns out though, that the officers were only looking to see if illegal substances were being trafficked. Eubanks would later make it to California where he found Kay. Eubanks began going by the name Victor Young and got a hunting license as his identification since it did not require fingerprinting. After Eubanks had left her home, she heard that he had gone to Gardena to begin working at a mattress manufacturing company. The police were able to confirm this and learned that he left the company in the mid-80s.

The authorities have still had no luck finding Lester Eubanks. One thing they believe they know for certain though is that his family and his associates know exactly where he is and that they are helping him in keeping his real identity a secret. The police recall a conversation with his father in the summer of 2003. When they asked him if he knew anything about Lester’s location, he denied knowing anything but added, that sometimes people could change and move on with their lives. Currently, Lester Eubanks is on the 15 Most Wanted list and a reward of up to $25,000 for any information is being offered in his case. The police are also trying to obtain his son’s DNA in an attempt to compare it against samples collected from unsolved crime scenes across America in the hopes that it will yield a match and offer hints about Lester’s new identity or location. The last confirmed sighting of Lester was in Alabama back in 2003. Until he is caught and put back behind bars, Mary Ellen Deener will not receive the justice that she deserves.

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