Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Crime Beat Column: Peace, Love And Homicide - The Unicorn Killer Is Convicted

I’ll never let you leave me. If I can’t have you, no one will.

The jilted lover turned murderer is a classic character in crime fiction and in the true annals of crime.

 "To kill what you love when you can’t have it seems so natural that strangling Rita last night seemed so right," Ira Einhorn wrote in his journal in 1962 when their love affair ended. Fortunately, she survived the attack, but a later girlfriend would not be so lucky.

Einhorn, often called Philadelphia’s "Hippie Guru," in the 1960s and 70s, was recently convicted in Philadelphia of the murder of his former girlfriend, Holly Maddux.

The long road to his conviction and life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison began in 1977 when Maddux, a young woman who left Texas to attend Bryn Mawr College, was reported missing after she broke it off with Einhorn. When the police could not find her, the Maddux family hired a private detective to search for her.

When neighbors complained about a horrible smell coming from Einhorn’s apartment in 1979, the police searched and found Maddux’s body in a locked steamer trunk in his closet. 

Arrested and charged with her murder, Einhorn’s attorney, former Philadelphia District Attorney and current U.S. Senator, Arlen Specter, arranged for several prominent business, social and civic leaders to testify to Einhorn’s good character. Despite the obvious fact that Einhorn kept his mummified girlfriend in a closet for 18 months, bail was set at $40,000. He skipped his pretrial hearing and fled the country.

Einhorn, a local media darling, often appeared on TV and in the newspapers during the 1960s as a counterculture hippie spokesman and in the 1970s as a "New Age activist." He was a friend of 60’s radicals Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, as well as the pet radical of some of Philadelphia’s bluest bloods and wealthiest corporate leaders (to get a better understanding of this type of odd social pairing, read Tom Wolfe’s great piece, Radical Chic).

As the name Einhorn translates to "one horn," he began to call himself "the Unicorn." He lived off of the kindness and money of gullible supporters. He was largely a media creation, it seemed to me. He was, both then and now, a sociopath and con artist.

Having been a teenager during the 1960s, I recall the decade’s counterculture vividly. The true believers, called hippies by the media, were a small, though highly visible minority group. They rejected conventional morality and personal hygiene (Einhorn was known to not bathe and smelled horribly) and claimed to believe in peace, love and understanding. Also active during that time and confused with the hippies were the radicals who participated in violent protests against the Vietnam War and other issues.

On college campuses and in urban centers like Philadelphia, most of the young people were enamored with the music, clothes, movies, drugs and other stylistic trappings of the age, but the great majority never truly subscribed to the extreme radical politics of the day or the dreamy hippie philosophy. Reporters looking for good copy and sound bites flocked like groupies to charlatans like Einhorn.

Throughout the 1980s Einhorn was a fugitive from justice. He was spotted in Ireland and Sweden, but no arrests were made. In 1993 the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office tried Einhorn in absentia. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

In 1997, the TV show Unsolved Mysteries told the story of Maddux’s murder and Einhorn’s fugitive flight. The tips rolled in after the show was broadcast and Einhorn was reported to be living in France under the name of Eugene Mallon. The French police arrested him, but then the French court refused to extradite him back to the U.S.

The French are much taken with our murderers – and Jerry Lewis. I suppose it’s a French thing.

Finally, after much public debate and political maneuvering, as well as Einhorn’s pathetic and phony attempt to slash his own throat, the French turned Einhorn over to the American authorities in France in 2001.

He was flown back to Philadelphia and granted a new trial. The trial, which received both national and international news coverage, was a strange one.

Einhorn’s defense was that he was framed. Although that is not a particularly original defense - "The DA framed me not knowing that I was really guilty. Ain’t that a coincidence?" a small-time hood said to Dashiell Hammet’s fictional detective Nick Charles in The Thin Man – Einhorn said the CIA framed him because of his extensive knowledge of secret, mind-control weapons. Some called this the "X-Files" defense.

Einhorn took the stand and told the court that his research into psychotronic mind-control weaponry, and the use of telepathic power and radio waves to control people was the reason Maddux was murdered and her body placed in his apartment. His egomania clearly came through in the court and the jury only took two hours to return a verdict of guilty.

Before sentencing Einhorn to life in prison, Judge William Mazzola called him an "intellectual dilettante who prayed on uninitiated, uninformed, unsuspecting, inexperienced people."

The judge quoted one witness who said Einhorn was a gadfly who ingratiated himself into organizations, as when he received a fellowship at Harvard and then passed himself off as a professor.

"He’s the type of person who I would describe as someone who would buy a book and read the first and last chapters of the book and feign a special understanding. I think the criticism we heard during testimony of other witnesses was not unfounded and the sentence is justified," Judge Mazzola said from the bench.

Now, after all these years, the Maddux family finally has justice. Einhorn has gone from sipping fine wine on his French farm to being prisoner ES6859. They don’t serve wine, fine or otherwise, at the State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale.

Note: The column originally appeared in the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2002.

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