MANSFIELD — The year was 1965.
Mary Ellen Deener, a 14-year-old girl from Mansfield, Ohio went with her younger sister to the Half Hour Laundromat, to wash the family’s clothes. It was in the evening, and Deener left the laundromat in search of more change to finish her chores.
She never returned.
Several hours later, Deemer’s body was found behind a nearby home. She had been shot and bludgeoned to death in what appeared to be an attempted rape.
Coins lay scattered by her side.
Police soon found her killer, Lester Eubanks, a preacher’s son with a history of attacking women. Eubanks quickly confessed.
“By midnight the next day, he was captured,” said Myrtle Carter who is Mary Ellen’s sister.
Eubanks was sentenced to death in May 1966. But in 1972, the Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional, and Eubanks sentence was commuted to life in prison.
Fast forward to December 7, 1973, Eubanks was allowed to leave prison, as a reward for good behavior. Eubanks was taken to a Columbus mall, for an afternoon of Christmas shopping. A place teeming with kids and women.
“Dropped him off unguarded at a mall,” said David Siler, U.S. Marshal.
“Just wouldn’t happen today. This is a man that was on death row. This is a man that committed murder with his hands,” Siler added.
A man who simply walked away.
“When they contacted my mom, we couldn’t believe it. Christmas shopping? Really? From death row? Christmas shopping,” said Carter, her disbelief still apparent almost fifty years later.
The fact that Eubanks got away so quickly isn’t lost on investigators.
“He had assistance. There are people that assisted him. I don’t know who those people are. I see that little girl, and I talk to her family and I know how this broke them,” Siler shared.
The escape was even featured on America’s Most Wanted. The episode helped produce more tips, but never an arrest.
Investigators say when he left the mall, Eubanks went straight to Michigan, then to Los Angeles, where he settled for years.
Police never caught up.
Tips came in from Ohio, Florida, Texas, Alabama. Even Canada and Mexico. Last year Investigators released a photo of what he might look like now, believing wherever Eubanks went, he blended in.
“He’s going to be a good person, a good citizen. And he’s going to try to adapt to society. He’s going to have a wife, he’s got kids,” said Siler.
And someone who knows the truth.
Dan Barnhill cared for Eubank’s late father for years and said the topic of Lester’s disappearance never came up, though many wondered what the family knew.
“Well you would think something would pop up. I mean, he must’ve changed his social security number, changed his name,” Barnhill wondered.
“I need someone to come forward. I need someone to identify even one little piece that they know where he is,” Siler said.
Someone with a conscience.
Myrtle Carter agreed to share her sister’s story in the hope it could help bring justice to a little girl who dreamed of being a nun, but never got that chance.
“I thank God for being a Christian. It helped all of us endure,” Carter said.
There is a $15,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.