Ira Einhorn, the one-time counterculture figure who fled the country more than two decades ago rather than face trial for the murder of his girlfriend, today finally appeared before a jury here. And he heard prosecutors describe him as less a guru of alternative lifestyles than a simple, savage killer driven by spurned love.
"This is a case of domestic violence, a case of domestic abuse, by a jilted lover," prosecutor Joel Rosen said in opening arguments of what is expected to be a month-long trial in Common Pleas Court. Helen "Holly" Maddux's mummified body was discovered locked in a steamer trunk in Einhorn's apartment in March 1979, 18 months after "she literally disappeared from the face of the planet," Rosen said.
Defense attorney William T. Cannon, however, described Einhorn as a savvy Ivy League graduate who would not be "stupid enough to keep the body of someone he murdered in his apartment for 18 months." In a preview of the defense strategy, Cannon told jurors that, while there is no disputing that Maddux's body was found in Einhorn's apartment, the real question, he said, is "who killed Holly . . . [and] put her body in the trunk?"
Cannon also said Einhorn will testify at the trial, and will talk about his relationship with Maddux and his fear that he wouldn't get a fair trial in 1981, which prompted him to flee. The one-time friend of such figures as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin became a fugitive.
For much of that time, Einhorn lived and traveled throughout Europe before he was captured in France and extradited back here last year to stand trial. While on the lam in 1993, Einhorn was tried in absentia and convicted of first-degree murder; Rosen prosecuted that case, too. To win his extradition from France, where Einhorn was living in the country village of Champagne-Mouton with his Swedish wife Annika Flodin Einhorn, Pennsylvania's legislature passed a law granting Einhorn a new trial upon his return.
Einhorn, now 62, faced the jury today with cropped white hair, a tidy mustache, blue blazer and khaki pants, looking far different from his days as one of the city's counterculture leaders, when he called himself "the Unicorn" and sported wild-flying hair, a bushy beard and wore only the most casual clothes -- and sometimes even less, occasionally opening the door of his home in the nude.
In court today, Einhorn frequently scribbled notes, especially during Rosen's opening remarks, sipped water and occasionally spoke to one of his attorneys. Einhorn looked at the jury and in one of his only public utterances today proclaimed himself "not guilty" in a clear voice.
Some of the most damning evidence against Einhorn is that Maddux's body was found in a locked closet in a locked trunk in his apartment. But Rosen told jurors that the prosecution's case is more than just the body, and talked of the couple's stormy relationship, Maddux's budding relationship with a new man, other acts of violence by Einhorn against former girlfriends, and the fact that Maddux was last seen on Sept. 10, 1977, attending a movie with Einhorn.
Rosen also reminded jurors that the case is so old because Einhorn "was nowhere to be found" for trial in 1981. "Justice has caught up with him," Rosen said. "And he did not come voluntarily -- he was dragged kicking and screaming to face this trial."
Cannon, during his opening statement, tried to raise doubts about the prosecution's case by suggesting that just because Maddux's body was found in Einhorn's closet doesn't mean he killed her, and that just because Einhorn fled the country before his trial doesn't mean he's guilty. He said the defense will present forensic evidence showing that Maddux's body did not decompose in the trunk in Einhorn's closet. Einhorn has long maintained that Maddux's body was planted in his apartment after her death.
Meg Wakefield, one of Holly Maddux's sisters, said the family -- which won a $907 million wrongful-death civil suit against Einhorn in 1999 -- is happy to finally see Einhorn sitting in court. "He's getting his wish -- his fair trial," Wakefield said. "I see no logical reason for there to be anything but a guilty verdict."