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Was the “Unicorn” set up for murder by a secret government agency as he insists—or is Ira Einhorn just a New Age con man?
Although his surname, Einhorn, means “one horn” in German, Ira quite likely named himself the Unicorn because the image of the mythical silver-white creature with the single horn rising from its skull would suggest an aura of mystery and magic to his New Age followers and benefactors. However, the fact that the unicorn is also an ancient symbol for Christ has made former hippie guru Ira Einhorn’s crimes of murder and deceit seem all the more offensive to millions of the more conventional members of society.
For twenty-two years, one of the leading icons in the peace-and-love counterculture movement of the 1960s managed to avoid being the star figure in a trial for the murder of his lover, Holly Maddux. Einhorn insists that he is innocent, that an ultra-secret group within the FBI or the CIA murdered his lover and framed him for the crime.
For the flower children of the late 1960s, the days and nights of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius were occupied with free love, antiwar protests, and experimental exercises with recreational drugs. Einhorn, Philadelphia’s “official hippie,” stressed that he was a lover, not a fighter, that he espoused harmony and understanding rather than violence. Those residents of the City of Brotherly Love who did not hail him as their guru knew Einhorn as the pacifist who organized the city’s first “be-in,” the environmentalist who established the nation’s first Earth Day, and the publicity-grabbing hippie mystic who never bathed or groomed himself.
In October 1972 Einhorn began a stormy, star-crossed relationship with Helen “Holly” Maddux, a romance that to those who were not under the spell of Einhorn’s New Age charms had to look like a real-life version of Beauty and the Beast. On the one hand, Holly was the all-American girl: a cheerleader in her Texas high school, a Bryn Mawr graduate, and a talented dancer whom many described as possessed of an “ethereal beauty.” On the other hand there was the scruffy, wild-haired, bearded, unbathed hippie high priest preaching peace and love and regaling his disciples with tales of psychic powers. Obviously Holly, like so many others, had been enthralled by Einhorn’s charisma and had seen something in his musky animal magnetism that completely escaped those who perceived him only as a New Age con man.
Holly was certainly not alone in her idolatry of the boisterous hippie. The Unicorn seemed always to live well, the recipient of generous gifts from wealthy benefactors—and even from members of influential corporate structures who believed that the great unwashed master of the flower children, the self-styled “planetary enzyme,” had secrets that they could exploit into big bucks.
Then came the day in September of 1977 when the sensible Texas girl who had been inside Holly all along wanted to leave the chaotic life she had been sharing with Einhorn. Friends of the couple remember noisy quarrels, attempts on Einhorn’s part to reconcile, and more heated arguments. But Holly stood firm. She told the shaggy, unkempt counterculture potentate with the offensive body odor whom she had once found so charismatic that she was leaving him.
Einhorn’s closest associates knew that he was furious that the beautiful blonde had dumped him. Friends of Holly’s knew that she had yielded to his pleas to come visit him in his apartment on some pretext or other that they judged to be bogus. They had warned her to stay away, not to give in to his alluring promises. In hindsight, they had been correct, for from that day forward she was never seen again.
For eighteen months Holly’s parents, three sisters, and brother in Texas were desperate. They felt certain that Einhorn had played a major role in her mysterious disappearance, and they hired a private investigator to find out the truth.
Meanwhile, Einhorn was busy, as always, cultivating new contacts among the local politicians and corporate executives. Socialites invited him to their parties; businesses hired him as their counterculture consultant.
He was sorry, he told investigating authorities. He had absolutely no idea where Holly might have gone after she left him—and he was simply too busy to worry about her. Right now he was involved in so many really important humanitarian projects for the city of Philadelphia that Holly was the farthest thing from his mind.
In March 1979 Einhorn’s downstairs neighbors were finding it difficult to tolerate the foul smell that had begun to permeate their apartment. When a sickening brown stain appeared on their ceiling and a strange fluid began leaking down, they called the police.
When the investigating officers arrived at Einhorn’s apartment, the unperturbed, quintessential hippie answered the door in the nude. He offered no resistance as the officers began to search for the source of the offensive odor and the mysterious brown stain. In a closet off Einhorn’s bedroom they found a large steamer trunk. Inside the trunk was the mummified body of a woman whose skull had been crushed. The wretched odor and the brownish fluid were coming from her decomposing corpse. A coroner’s report was hardly necessary to confirm that the body was that of the missing Holly Maddux and that she had been bludgeoned to death.
Although Einhorn was arrested, on the day of his bail hearing an impressive number of high-profile character witnesses appeared in court to vouch for him. Einhorn’s attorney, future senator Arlen Specter, managed to get a bail set that required only $4,000 cash. After all, a high priest of peace, love, and harmony could certainly be trusted to remain in Philadelphia so that he might clear things up at his trial.
Einhorn had plenty to say to his supporters to “clear things up”: According to one of his stories, he didn’t know Holly’s body was decomposing there in the steamer trunk in his bedroom closet. He hadn’t seen her after she had told him their relationship was over and had left him. She had obviously been murdered by agents of a secret government conspiracy and her body brought to his apartment and hidden there to frame him.
And then there was another oft-told story: He had returned to the apartment one day and found her murdered. She had been killed by either the FBI or the CIA and left there to frame him. Fearing that no one could believe him and accepting the sad fact that it was too late to help Holly, he hid her body in the steamer trunk and hoped that it would never be found.
Einhorn reminded his supporters that the Feds considered him an agent provocateur and that they were still furious with him for his participation in the antiwar movement and his communications with peaceniks behind the iron curtain. He claimed that they also wanted him out of the way because of his pioneering work on the Internet and his desire to make it international in scope, beyond the control of the federal government.
Mike Chitwood, later the police chief in Portland, Maine, was the detective who opened the steamer trunk that day in Einhorn’s apartment and made the shocking discovery of Holly Maddux’s corpse. Nearly two decades later he recalled that as soon as the judge set bail, he knew that Einhorn would skip the country: “I told the other homicide detectives, this guy will never come to trial, he’ll take off.”
Chitwood was right. Two months before his trial was to begin in January 1981, Einhorn fled the country.
For seventeen years, a Philadelphia district attorney’s investigator, Richard DiBenedetto, tracked Einhorn from Ireland to England to Sweden, and finally to France. There were three occasions—twice in Dublin, once in Stockholm—when DiBenedetto missed his man by only a matter of hours. The persistent investigator commented to the press that it had always disgusted him that wealthy benefactors—many still under Einhorn’s spell from his days as the hippie guru—continued to support the fugitive. DiBenedetto stated that it was consistently apparent to him that Einhorn was always living very well in his exile.
In 1993 a Philadelphia court tried Einhorn in absentia for the murder of Holly Maddux. The defendant was represented by an empty chair placed next to his lawyer. The unusual proceeding reflected the prosecutors’ concern that a number of witnesses might die before Einhorn could be apprehended and brought back for trial in person. They also believed that an official trial could help bring closure for the Maddux family. Unfortunately, however, the guilty verdict against the Unicorn turned out to be an unforeseen obstacle in finally bringing him to justice.
A year or so later, DiBenedetto received a tip from a wealthy Canadian socialite who had been generously funding Einhorn’s program of evading capture. It seems that during a time of serious introspection, the woman had come to believe no longer in Einhorn’s innocence in Holly Maddux’s death. She told DiBenedetto to look for Einhorn with a wealthy Swedish woman named Annika Flodin.
In 1997 a Swedish Interpol officer turned up the name of Annika Flodin Mallon on an application for a French driver’s license. DiBenedetto knew that Einhorn had assumed the name Eugene Mallon, “borrowed” from a Dublin bookseller. Apparently Annika Flodin was now Mrs. Eugene Mallon, a.k.a. Mrs. Ira Einhorn.
On May 15, 1997—Einhorn’s fifty-seventh birthday—DiBenedetto secured the fugitive’s address in Champagne-Mouton, a village in the wine country of southwestern France. The investigator feared that someone would once again warn Einhorn of impending capture and that he would flee once more into obscurity. But finally, for once in the seventeen years of pursuit of the murderer, Einhorn received no tip that the noose was about to tighten around his neck. The French police arrested him in June, and it appeared that he was at last on his way back to Philadelphia for long-overdue justice.
But that was when the fact that the prosecutors had tried and convicted Einhorn in absentia became a giant international sticking point. France has a law which firmly states that defendants tried in absentia must receive a new trial when they appear so that they can speak in their own defense. The state of Pennsylvania has no such law. So, in December 1997, a French court denied the request to extradite Einhorn.
In 1998, according to Philadelphia district attorney Lynne Abraham, the Pennsylvania legislature “turned on a dime” to pass a law granting courts the power to offer new trials in special cases such as Einhorn’s. Abraham was the judge who in 1979 had signed the warrant that allowed investigators to search Einhorn’s apartment and led them to the gruesome discovery of Holly Maddux’s body in the steamer trunk.
At last authorities in France agreed to extradition for Einhorn with the proviso—also following French law—that he not be given the death penalty. On October 17, 2002, twenty-five years after he was accused of the crime, Ira Einhorn, sixty-two, received an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole on the first-degree murder charge. He still maintained his innocence and his accusations of secret government agencies’ having committed the murder of Holly Maddux, but District Attorney Abraham declared it a “sweet day for the Maddux family and for Holly’s memory.”