In 1934, infamous mob man John Dillinger broke out of an Indiana prison with what the FBI called “a wooden gun he had whittled.” Serial killer Ted Bundy, the subject of a new Amazon Prime series, crawled out of his Colorado jail cell through a hole he sawed with a smuggled-in hacksaw blade. In 2015, convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat dug their way out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, using tools given to them by prison staffers.
Lester Eubanks, one of America’s most notorious fugitives, didn’t need a hacksaw or a wooden gun or barter to escape confinement. In December 1973, prison officials took the convicted murderer to a mall in Columbus, Ohio, to shop unescorted as a reward for good behavior. Eubanks bolted and was never seen again.
The search for Eubanks is the subject of ABC’s new podcast “Have You Seen This Man?” Narrated by The View co-host Sunny Hostin, it follows ABC senior investigative reporter Matthew Mosk, who teams up with Deputy U.S. Marshal David Siler in an attempt to solve a 46-year-old mystery. Mosk tells ELLE.com he spoke with 50 sources for the podcast to answer questions like, how did Eubanks get out? Why was his escape largely ignored? And how has he so successfully evaded capture?
“I think the podcast helps fill in a number of those blanks,” Mosk says. “But the biggest question is the one we are leaving with everyone who listens, which is, ‘Have you seen this man?'” Mosk believes the podcast will function as a way to crowd-source a manhunt for Eubanks. Listeners are encouraged to provide any tips on his whereabouts to the U.S. Marshals by calling 866-4WANTED.
Here’s everything you need to know about Eubanks, and the decades-long journey to track him down.
Who is Lester Eubanks?
In 1965, Eubanks was on bail awaiting trial for sexual assault when he shot and bludgeoned 14-year-old Mary Ellen Deener to death in what law enforcement believe was an attempted rape. The day after killing Deener, 22-year-old Eubanks was arrested and charged with first-degree murder while perpetrating rape. One year later, a jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death. In 1972, his death sentence was commuted to life in prison without possibility of parole after the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional.
According to Rolling Stone, Eubanks has a “large scar on his upper right arm, a wound of unknown origins” and is a longtime lover of “art, music, and martial arts.”
How did he escape?
Due to good behavior, Eubanks was allowed to do his 1973 Christmas shopping at a Columbus mall unaccompanied. When he failed to meet up with prison guards at the planned time, he was reported as an escapee. He’s been on the run ever since.
Where did he go?
According to Rolling Stone, Eubanks headed to Michigan and then to Los Angeles. Authorities believe he is using the name “Victor Young.” With assistance from friends, he was able to secure an entirely new identity.
Eubanks is on the U.S. Marshals Most Wanted List.
The U.S. Marshals added Eubanks to their list in December 2018, the 45th anniversary of his escape. “While the Eubanks’ case is designated as a cold case, I want to assure the public our investigation into his whereabouts is very active,” U.S. Marshals Service Deputy Director David Anderson said in a statement. “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.”
Added U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott of the Northern District of Ohio: “The U.S. Marshals are not deterred by the passage of time when it comes to cases like this one. 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.”
How has he managed to stay hidden for so long?
In an interview with Rolling Stone, former LAPD detective Tim Conner calls Eubanks very cunning. “He’s not a dumb guy,” Conner told the outlet. “He’s been avoiding the authorities for 40-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.”
Where do detectives think he is now?
According to a U.S. Marshals press release, investigative leads placed the long-time fugitive in Michigan and California, but “his whereabouts remain a mystery.”
Does ABC’s podcast “Have You Seen This Man” provide any answers?
According to a press release provided to ELLE.com, the podcast features exclusive interviews with key players who knew Eubanks, plus “never-before-heard details of his prison escape.” It also features interviews with people who’ve encountered Eubanks since he’s been on the run.
“We wanted to talk to everyone we could find who knew Lester Eubanks,” says ABC senior investigative reporter Matthew Mosk. “Anyone who might help explain his escape, and who encountered him during his time on the run.”