Ira Einhorn

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Ira Einhorn
Ira Einhorn.png
1979 mugshot and a 2001 mugshot taken upon his return to the U.S.
Born Ira Samuel Einhorn
(1940-05-15) May 15, 1940 (age 77)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Other names The Unicorn Killer, The Unicorn
Criminal charge Murder
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment
Criminal status In prison

Ira Samuel Einhorn (born May 15, 1940), known as "the Unicorn Killer", is an American environmental activist convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend Holly Maddux. On September 9, 1977, Maddux disappeared following a trip to collect her things from the apartment she and Einhorn had shared in Philadelphia. Eighteen months later, police found Maddux's partially mummified body in a trunk in his closet. It had been packed with Styrofoam pellets, air fresheners, and newspapers.[1]

After his arrest, Einhorn fled the country and spent 23 years in Europe before being extradited to the US. He took the stand in his own defense, claiming his ex-girlfriend had been killed by CIA agents who framed him for the crime because he knew too much about the agency's paranormal military research. He was convicted and is currently serving a life sentence.[1]

His moniker, "the Unicorn", came from his name, Einhorn — unicorn in German.

Early life and activism[edit]

Born into a middle-class Jewish[2][3] family, Einhorn studied at the University of Pennsylvania.[4][5] He became active in ecological groups and was part of the counterculture, anti-establishment, and anti-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s.[6] He called himself "the Unicorn," because Einhorn is German for Unicorn.[7]

Einhorn participated in the first Earth Day event in Philadelphia in 1970.[6] He later claimed to have been instrumental in the creation of Earth Day and launching the event,[6] but other event organizers dispute his account. Einhorn actually did little to no organising of the event but ended up as MC for the live broadcast of Philadelphia's Earth Day.[8][9]

Murder of Holly Maddux[edit]

Einhorn had a five-year relationship with Holly Maddux, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College who was originally from Tyler, Texas. In 1977, Maddux broke up with Einhorn. She went to New York City and became involved with Saul Lapidus. On Sept. 9, 1977, Maddux returned to the apartment she had once shared with Einhorn to collect her things, and was never seen again. Several weeks later, the Philadelphia police questioned Einhorn about her disappearance. He claimed that Maddux had gone out to the neighborhood co-op to buy some tofu and sprouts, and never returned.

Eventually, Einhorn's neighbors began complaining about a foul smell coming from his apartment, which in turn aroused the suspicion of authorities. Eighteen months later, on March 28, 1979, Maddux's decomposing corpse was found by police in a trunk stored in a closet, in Einhorn's apartment. After finding Maddux the police reportedly said to Einhorn, "It looks like we found Holly," to which Einhorn reportedly replied, "You found what you found". Einhorn's bail was reduced to $40,000 at the request of his attorney Arlen Specter; Einhorn was released from custody in advance of his trial by paying 10% of the bond's value, or $4,000. This amount was paid by Phyllis Lambert, the Montreal architect-philanthropist, prominent member of the Bronfman family, force behind the Seagram Building, and one of the many people Einhorn had convinced to support him financially.

In 1981, just days before his murder trial was to begin, Einhorn skipped bail and fled to Europe. He traveled in Europe for the next 17 years and married a Swedish woman named Annika Flodin. Back in Pennsylvania, as Einhorn had already been arraigned, the state convicted him in absentia in 1993, for Maddux's murder. Einhorn was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.


In 1997, Einhorn was tracked down and arrested in Champagne-Mouton, France, where he had been living under the name "Eugène Mallon". The extradition process, however, proved more complex than initially envisioned. Under the extradition treaty between France and the United States, either country may refuse extradition under certain circumstances, and Einhorn used multiple avenues to avoid extradition.

Although his sentence was not the death penalty, Einhorn's defense attorneys argued that Einhorn would face the death penalty if returned to the United States. France, like many countries that have abolished the death penalty, does not extradite defendants to jurisdictions that retain the death penalty without assurance that the death penalty will be neither sought nor applied. Pennsylvania authorities pointed out that at the date of the murder, Pennsylvania did not have the death penalty, and therefore Einhorn could not be executed, due to provisions in the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions regarding ex post facto law. Einhorn's next strategy involved French law, and the European Court of Human Rights, which require a new trial when the defendant was tried in absentia and unable to present his defense. On this basis, the court of appeals of Bordeaux rejected the extradition request.

Following the court's decision, 35 members of the United States Congress sent a letter to President Jacques Chirac of France, asking for Einhorn's extradition. However, under France's doctrine of the separation of powers, which was invoked in this case, the President cannot give orders to courts and does not intervene in extradition affairs.

As a consequence of this refusal, in order to secure the extradition of Einhorn and ensure that he was imprisoned for the murder he committed, the Pennsylvania legislature passed in 1998 a bill, nicknamed the "Einhorn Law", allowing defendants convicted in absentia to request another trial. In another delay tactic, the bill was criticized by Einhorn's attorneys as unconstitutional, and they tried to get the French courts to deny the extradition again on the grounds that the law would be inapplicable. However, the French court ruled itself unable to evaluate the constitutionality of foreign laws. Another point of friction with the U.S. was that the court freed Einhorn under police supervision — French laws put restrictions on remand (the imprisonment of suspects awaiting trial). Einhorn then became the focus of intense surveillance by the French police.

The matter then went before Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, since extraditions, after having been approved by courts, must be ordered by the executive. The French Green Party stated that Einhorn should not be extradited until the issues concerning his case were fully settled.[10] Jospin rejected those claims and issued an extradition decree. Einhorn then litigated against the decree before the Conseil d'État, which ruled against him; again, the Council declined to review the constitutionality of foreign law.[11] He then attempted to slit his throat to avoid imprisonment for the murder[12] and eventually litigated his case before the European Court of Human Rights, which also ruled against him.

On July 20, 2001, Einhorn was extradited to the United States.[13]

Trial and penalty[edit]

Taking the stand in his own defense, Einhorn claimed that Maddux was murdered by CIA agents who attempted to frame Einhorn for the crime due to Einhorn's "investigations" on the Cold War and "psychotronics".[14] After two hours of deliberation, the jury convicted him on 17 October 2002, concluding the month-long trial.[4] The following day, he was sentenced to a mandatory life term without the possibility of parole.[15] Einhorn began serving his sentence at SCI Houtzdale. In April 2016, Einhorn was transferred to SCI Laurel Highlands, a minimum security prison that provides care for inmates with health needs.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Melina, Remy (2011-04-21). "Earth Day co-founder killed, composted girlfriend". NBC News. 
  2. ^ "When Jewish Earth Day Co-Founder Killed, Composted Girlfriend". 
  3. ^ "Earth Day co-founder killed, composted girlfriend". 22 April 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Ex-Fugitive Convicted in 25-Year-Old Murder", The New York Times, October 18, 2002 .
  5. ^ "The Ira Einhorn Case", Time (background), July 20, 2001 .
  6. ^ a b c "Earth Day co-founder killed, composted girlfriend". MSNBC. Retrieved 2011-04-22. 
  7. ^ "Ira Einhorn", Notorious murders, Tru TV .
  8. ^ Earth Week Committee of Philadelphia. "Einhorn" (Letter). AMGOT. 
  9. ^ "No, Ira Einhorn Didn't Found Earth Day". 22 April 2015. 
  10. ^ "Ira Einhorn extradé" (in French). Les Verts. July 20, 2001. Archived from the original on October 26, 2013. Retrieved October 26, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Council of State Ruling". 
  12. ^ "France Agrees to Extradition Of Culprit in Killing in U.S.". The New York Times. July 13, 2001. 
  13. ^ "Ex-Fugitive Convicted in 25-Year-Old Murder". AP. 18 October 2002 – via The New York Times. 
  14. ^ "Dave Lindorff's 2002 article on the Einhorn trial in Salon". 2002-10-18. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  15. ^ Steward, Stephanie (October 18, 2002). "Einhorn sentenced to life in prison". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Inmate Locator". 


  • Einhorn, Ira. 78-187880. (1972) ISBN 0-385-06387-3 Its title is its Library of Congress number.
  • Einhorn, Ira. (August 2005). Prelude to Intimacy. ISBN 1-4116-4911-7. Einhorn's account of his life underground from the time he fled the United States in early January 1981 until he met his Swedish wife, Annika, in November 1987.
  • Levy, Steven. (1988). The Unicorn's Secret: Murder in the Age of Aquarius. ISBN 0-13-937830-8. Published while Einhorn's whereabouts were unknown.

External links[edit]