New clues point to SoCal in manhunt for child killer

Newly unearthed photos may hold clues in the hunt for a child killer who's been on the run for nearly half a century, and who could be living in Southern California.

Video Transcript

- Newly unearthed photos may hold clues in the hunt for a child killer that's been on the run for nearly half a century, and he could be living here in Southern California. This is Lester Eubanks with an age progression of how he may look today. The former death row inmate escaped from an Ohio prison in 1973. And as our colleague Marc Brown reports, the child's family is hoping you could put an end to one of the longest manhunts in history.

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MYRTLE CARTER: She was always giggling. You know, little girl, always giggling and having fun.

MARC BROWN: Mary Ellen Deener, just 14 years old, shot twice and left for dead in 1965. Her killer, Lester Eubanks, returned an hour later to finish the job.

DAVID SILER: And realized she's still breathing, still alive. He picked up a brick and he bashed her skull in.

MYRTLE CARTER: When they found my sister between those two houses-- and it was just so unreal. And to have someone murdered, a child murdered?

MARC BROWN: Lester Eubanks confessed the next day. The case made headlines. And within months, he'd been tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. He faced execution in the electric chair, nicknamed Old Sparky.

MYRTLE CARTER: Everything just fell into place. It was like watching a movie.

MARC BROWN: Until December 1973.

MYRTLE CARTER: That's when the story took a jagged, real crazy turn.

MARC BROWN: The Supreme Court had just abolished the death penalty. Eubanks's sentence was commuted to life in prison. Over time, he earned honor status as an inmate and the trust of prison guards.

MYRTLE CARTER: My mom called me crying. The sheriff had called her and told her that he had escaped.

MARC BROWN: But his escape was not over prison walls. Lester Eubanks and three other inmates were allowed to leave the prison to go Christmas shopping unsupervised. Lester simply walked away.

JOHN ARCUDI: I mean, it just boggles the mind that you're actually going to take him out, turn him loose in a shopping center for rehabilitation purposes? Crazy.

DAVID SILER: Strikeout. Dammit.

MARC BROWN: Finding Lester Eubanks after 47 years on the run has fallen largely to one man, Deputy US Marshal David Siler.

DAVID SILER: We're not big on sitting back and waiting. We like to shake the tree. And we're just hoping for that one piece of the puzzle that's going to get us to his front door.

MARC BROWN: And tips keep leading Siler's cold case squad straight to Southern California.

DAVID SILER: And we always come back to focus on the Greater Los Angeles area.

MARC BROWN: Investigators later learned that Lester Eubanks fled to Los Angeles soon after his escape in 1975 and lived off and on with this woman, Kay Eubanks, until 1996. He took a new name, Victor Young, and lived at times in Gardena, South Central LA, Long Beach, and North Hollywood.

DAVID SILER: We know that he has a footprint there. We know that he has associates throughout the area. We just need to talk to those people.

MARC BROWN: These are newly unearthed photos of people Lester Eubanks worked with in the mid-'70s at a mattress factory in Gardena.

JOY SPRINGER: It was right in the beginning of the waterbed era, and we were going big guns. You had a heartbeat, we'd hire you, and put you to work.

MARC BROWN: Victor Young, as Joy Springer knew him, worked hard, kept quiet, and rode a 10-speed bike to work.

JOY SPRINGER: He wore a lot of cologne, and it would give me a migraine and give me headaches. It was overwhelming.

MARC BROWN: Joy recently dug up these photos of people she remembers working at her waterbed factory with Lester, a.k.a. Victor Young.

JOY SPRINGER: One of my business partners-- she took pictures of everybody, everything, and he was not in any of them-- not one.

DAVID SILER: One person that we have a name is a possible girlfriend. Her name is Renee, and she went by Sherm.

MARC BROWN: Another is this man, known only as Rick.

DAVID SILER: And we're hoping that the viewers of Greater Los Angeles are able to identify some of these people. I mean, they're not in any trouble whatsoever.

MARC BROWN: But they may be in for a payday. The reward for any information that leads the marshals to Lester Eubanks is $50,000.

DAVID SILER: We believe that he may have never left the Greater Los Angeles area.

MARC BROWN: Lester Eubanks is Siler's focus, but Mary Ellen is never gone from his mind.

DAVID SILER: This is one of these cases that you go to bed with. It's one of these cases you wake up with. It's something that it's just so disgusting and unjust. We continue to fight for her so that someday, she will get justice when we're able to put Lester Eubanks in custody.

MARC BROWN: Myrtle Carter still prays for justice and that her sister Mary Ellen's soul can finally be at rest.

MYRTLE CARTER: We went so long with no one caring. I mean, it means the world to me.

MARC BROWN: Marc Brown, ABC7 Eyewitness News.

- Lester Eubanks is now 77 years old. If you know anything, you're urged to call the US Marshals Tipline at 1-877-WANTED2. Again, there is a $50,000 reward. For more on the manhunt, check out ABC News' podcast, "Have You Seen This Man?"