Time Off for Bad Behavior

Public records are like historical facts. Each one is part of the story of someone’s life. As we often discover when we research public records, some of those stories are quite outlandish. For example, take a look at the FBI Most Wanted List from their Cincinnati, Ohio field office, found on this criminal wants and warrants directory. The saga of Lester Edward Eubanks reads like a character back-story in an Elmore Leonard novel:

“Lester Eubanks is wanted for escaping from jail. On May 25, 1966, Eubanks was convicted of murdering a teenage girl during an attempted rape in Mansfield, Ohio. Eubanks shot the victim twice. He then returned to the victim’s location and smashed her skull with a brick. At the time of the offense, Eubanks was on bail for another attempted rape.”

That’s absolutely horrible, but that isn’t the outlandish part. Eubanks is still at large, and as described above, he’s wanted for escaping from jail. The truth is, Eubanks didn’t exactly escape from jail. He escaped from a mall during a Christmas shopping spree. Here is the rest of the story, quoted verbatim from the FBI site:

“On December 7, 1973, Eubanks walked away from an honor assignment from the Ohio Correctional Center in Columbus, Ohio. Reportedly, Eubanks was taken to a shopping center in the south end of Columbus and dropped off to go Christmas shopping by prison officials. Eubanks failed to return to his scheduled pick-up point and was reported by prison officials as a “walkaway.” Eubanks had been sentenced to death in the electric chair, and after three unsuccessful appeals, his death sentence was commuted to life in prison. This was due to a 1972 Supreme Court decision that ruled the death penalty unconstitutional.”

So first Eubanks catches a break when the death penalty is abolished in Ohio (Note: Ohio has since reinstated the death penalty, as evidenced by this list of current death row inmates). Eubanks then asks the warden if he can buy some Christmas gifts for his family. He catches another break when the prison officials “drop him off” at a shopping center and instruct him to return an hour later for his ride back to prison.

It is hard to believe that prison officials were so gullible.

The FBI bulletin about Eubanks sprinkles in other interesting facts about the fugitive. He was a former Air Force medic (possibly in the Vietnam War?), and held menial jobs after that. He holds a degree in martial arts and a black belt in karate, and is described as a practicing Baptist. The FBI site also indicates that Eubanks was living in California in the early 1990’s. So apparently witnesses spotted him two decades after his initial escape. A federal arrest warrant was put out for him in 1996 and there is currently a $10,000 reward for information leading to Eubanks’ capture.

So if you see Mr. Eubanks, at your local shopping mall or elsewhere, do NOT try to apprehend him. Report the sighting to the FBI.

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