Even amid the excesses of the late 1960s and early '70s, Ira Einhorn was notorious for pushing the limits.
A hulking man with a head of wild hair, bushy beard and erratic personal hygiene, Einhorn sometimes answered the door to his West Philadelphia apartment in the nude. He is said to have once passed out joints, stripped naked and danced in an alternative-education class he taught at the University of Pennsylvania.
Some credit him with helping organize the first Earth Day, but he was also known to have held serious conversations with serious people about extraterrestrials and the paranormal. He counted among his friends the Yippies Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, as well as some of the grayest suits of this city's establishment. And he had a gift for talking businessmen out of their money and attractive women out of their bell bottoms.
But now, Einhorn's hair is white and brushed, his moustache is trimmed and he wears a coat and tie. Instead of holding court, he is appearing in court: Jury selection in one of the longest-awaited trials in local memory began this week, 23 years after his girlfriend's desiccated remains were found locked in a steamer trunk in his closet.
After he was arrested in the killing of Helen "Holly" Maddux, Einhorn bolted from the city and remained on the lam for 16 years, during which he was convicted of murder in absentia. Investigators found him in 1997 living with his wife, a Swedish heiress, in a farmhouse in the south of France. Only after extended extradition proceedings, during which Einhorn won the right to a new trial in Pennsylvania, was he returned to the United States last year.
When he was accused of Maddux's murder, Einhorn denied it, saying he was being framed by federal intelligence agencies that had become unnerved by his digging into their psychic phenomena and weapons research.
Many people apparently believed him.
Nearly two dozen of the city's best known citizens testified to Einhorn's good character during his preliminary hearing, where he was represented by former Philadelphia district attorney Arlen Specter, who is now a Republican U.S. senator. Their testimony helped persuade a judge to set his bail at a low $40,000, only 10 percent of which had to be put up to secure his release. "Lots of influential people supported him," said Assistant District Attorney Joel Rosen, the lead prosecutor.
And lots of them were surprised when Einhorn jumped bail and fled the country in January 1981. "Ira was so well known to everyone that I don't think there was any serious thought that he would not be present for trial," said William T. Cannon, his court-appointed lawyer.
If Einhorn has changed with the times, so too, has his defense. His prominent friends have long abandoned him, and nobody seems to be buying the idea of a government conspiracy against him.
In Einhorn's new trial, Cannon plans to focus on the holes he sees in the state's case, which, he acknowledges, is substantial. "The victim's body was found in the defendant's apartment. It is the major hurdle," Cannon said. "There is circumstantial evidence of major dimension."
Still, Cannon promises to present three witnesses -- including a former Philadelphia police officer -- who will testify that they saw the 30-year-old Maddux alive after September 1977, when prosecutors allege Einhorn killed her. He also plans to point out that Einhorn's fingerprints were not found on several boxes piled on top of the trunk in which Maddux's body was found. Cannon adds that no traces of Maddux's decomposing body were found in a rug and floorboards below the trunk in two of the three rounds of laboratory tests ordered by prosecutors.
He also said there was an "excellent chance" Einhorn would testify in his own defense. "Since he has no hard proof of a government conspiracy, he'll be contented simply to deny involvement," Cannon said.
Einhorn met Maddux in 1972 at La Terrasse, the bistro where he often held forth. Smitten, she moved into his shabby apartment two weeks later, beginning what was to be a stormy five-year relationship.
Once, Maddux's sisters said, she brought him home for the weekend to meet her family in Tyler, Tex. As the family bowed their heads for a blessing, Einhorn rested his feet on the table and picked at poison ivy sores on his arm. Later, when Maddux suggested that he look at an album of her baby photos, he gruffly refused and asked her to brush his hair. She quietly complied.
"He went out of his way to be obnoxious to my parents," said Elisabeth Maddux Hall, Maddux's sister. Meanwhile, he was charming to Hall, then 15. He wrote her a poem, which he read to her in her sister's presence. "He sat really, really close to me and read me his haiku," she said. "I didn't know it then, but he was hitting on me." Despite such episodes, Holly Maddux adored Einhorn. "He dominated her psychologically," Rosen said. "He has a very, very big, overpowering personality."
It was years before Maddux's affection for Einhorn faded. In the summer of 1977, Einhorn and Maddux traveled to Europe, often staying at the homes of Einhorn's wealthy friends. Hall visited them in London while she was on a high school trip. That was the last time she saw her sister.
"She told me, 'I'm so tired of all Ira's b.s. I'm leaving him and when I go back to Philly, I'm getting my own apartment.' "
That is what prosecutors say triggered a fatal confrontation between the couple. Later that summer, Maddux left Einhorn in Europe and returned to the United States. Eventually, she met a new beau. When Einhorn returned home, he called her repeatedly. Finally, prosecutors say, Maddux told Einhorn that she wanted to end their relationship.
He demanded that she come back to the apartment, prosecutors say, threatening to throw her belongings into the street. When she returned, she and Einhorn went to the movies. After that, she disappeared.
Maddux's family became worried when they did not hear from her for weeks. They asked Einhorn about her whereabouts, but he said he had no idea.
Dissatisfied with that, Maddux's parents hired a former FBI agent to find their daughter. The agent, working with a Philadelphia colleague, interviewed dozens of the couple's acquaintances and neighbors, eventually assembling a report that pointed a damning finger at Einhorn.
"It read like an Alfred Hitchcock movie," said Michael Chitwood, the Portland, Maine, police chief, who then was a Philadelphia detective who worked the case.
A Drexel University student who lived in the apartment beneath Einhorn's had heard thumps and a scream coming from upstairs about the time Maddux disappeared. Later the student smelled something foul and saw a brownish ooze coming through the ceiling. Not suspecting murder, the tenant complained to the landlord, who sent a plumber to look into the problem.
Armed with the investigators' report, Chitwood reinterviewed some of the witnesses before securing a search warrant for Einhorn's apartment. On March 28, 1979, Chitwood and other officers served the warrant. Upon entering Einhorn's apartment, they went straight for a locked closet. Inside, they discovered the trunk, which they forced open.
"You could absolutely smell death," Chitwood said.
Inside the trunk were newspapers, dated late August and early September 1977, some department store plastic bags and a layer of foam. Underneath, Chitwood found Maddux's mummified body.
"Looks like we found Holly," Chitwood said.
"You found what you found," Einhorn replied.
Police alleged that Einhorn, in a jealous rage, had bludgeoned Maddux to death, shattering her skull. In their subsequent investigation, police located two former girlfriends who said Einhorn had turned violent when they tried to break off relationships with him.
But as Einhorn's trial approached, he fled. Investigators were on his trail in Ireland and Sweden, but he slipped away. He used the names "Ben Moore" and "Eugene Mallon," and met a woman named Annika Flodin, whose family owned a tony fabric shop in Stockholm. She helped keep him hidden throughout Europe, finally settling with him in France.
In 1988, Maddux's father committed suicide; her mother died of emphysema two years later. Worried that their case would fall apart, Philadelphia prosecutors tried Einhorn in absentia in 1993. A jury convicted him of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
In 1997, police traced Einhorn and Flodin to their home in France and arrested him. But French courts, which do not recognize trials in absentia, refused to extradite him unless Pennsylvania passed a law allowing Einhorn a new trial. That law was passed in 1998, and after a series of appeals, a shackled Einhorn was finally delivered to the United States in July 2001. His wife has remained in France.
"I really am looking forward to the trial, you just don't know," said Meg Wakeman, another of Maddux's sisters. "I'm just looking forward to the end of it and the irrefutable truth coming out that he killed Holly."