Carl Eder’s disappearance is slightly different from most of the cases I’ve researched for in that we know why he vanished because of a note that he left at the Tehachapi California State Prison from which he simply walked away in 1974.
“I’ve done enough time and I’m leaving.“
What caught my eye about Eder’s profile when browsing the sea of lost faces on NamUs was that his default photo was a mugshot instead of a candid picture or family portrait.
Eder is certainly not the only missing person with a criminal record, but in the few months that I’ve been looking into this subject his record might be the bloodiest.
In 1958 Eder was a sixteen-year-old runaway from a Rochester, New York suburb who’d hitchhiked across the county. While in California his estranged his path crossed with those of the Pendergrasts. The patriarch, Thomas Pendergrast, felt sorry for the young man and invited him to live with them in El Cajon until he could get himself back on his feet.
Six weeks later Eder brutally murdered Mrs. Pendergrast and all four of the children, claiming his fury was sparked because the four-year-old (Diane) was bothering him. One report claimed that the child was in her bedroom being noisy, which prompted Eder to throw her to the ground. When the mother came in and saw that Diane’s head was cut she instructed Eder to retrieve a bandage. Instead he returned with a pistol and shot Mrs. Pendergrast in the head. He murdered all four children by slashing their throats. The two oldest boys were also disemboweled.
When Mr. Pendergrast returned, Eder demanded that he drive him from the scene at gunpoint. The killer finally exited Pendergrast’s car and was found three days later by authorities near San Diego.
Eder confessed and was eventually given two life sentences for his crimes.
In 1974 he escaped while working on an unsupervised farm project outside of the correctional facility. He was reportedly seen in 1976 near Upvalley, but beyond that he’s managed to elude officials for decades.