TIME Archive: The Ira Einhorn Case

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JON ELSWICK/AP

Ira Einhorn taken into custody upon arrival in the U.S.

Ira Einhorn has been extradited to the United States after a four-year battle. The counterculture guru and notorious fugitive arrived in Friday morning in Philadelphia, where he faces a retrial Ė he was convicted in absentia in 1993 of the brutal 1977 murder of his girlfriend.

The extradition was hard-won. After Einhorn was arrested in 1997 in the Bordeaux region of France, Philadelphia prosecutors lost several attempts at extradition, foiled by a French claims that Einhornís human rights would be violated if he were forced to go to prison without a new trial. When he lost his last appeal July 12, he tried to slit his throat, but failed to inflict serious damage.

When Einhorn was first arrested in France in 1997, TIME magazineís Steve Lopez explained the whole story, from Einhornís ascension in the hippie world as a student at the University of Pennsylvania to his arrest in the town of Champagne-Mouton:

September 29, 1997

The Search for the Unicorn

By Steve Lopez

Eugene Mallon lived like a sun king in the south of France, sharing a tile-roofed farmhouse with his strawberry-blond Swedish wife. He read books, put idle thoughts to paper and played in a bridge club every Friday. She baked bread, tended garden and strolled into the nearby village of Champagne-Mouton on market day, tall and delicate, a sight so fair the mayor's tired old heart would stir. The Gold Creek met the Silver Creek near the Mallons' acreage, and all around, the gentlest breeze would set fields of sunflowers ablaze with waves of golden light.

It was paradise, until June 13. A small army of French national police crept in before sunrise and surrounded the house. Three of them, 9-mm Berettas drawn, went to the door and knocked firmly as the others hid in the fields.

Across the Atlantic, the FBI waited. In Philadelphia a low-level bureaucrat named Richard DiBenedetto dangled, weightless with anticipation. For 16 years, across five countries, the Philadelphia district attorney's fugitive-and-extradition chief had hunted the man called Mallon with an obsession that would have impressed Captain Ahab. His name was not Eugene Mallon, as he had conned the French villagers into believing. Nor was he a British writer who had settled in remotest France for quiet inspiration. He was an American fugitive named Ira Einhorn, a man who had risen to fame during the late 1960s and early 1970s as a counterculture guru. Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman were friends, logically enough. But so was an unlikely battalion of bluebloods, millionaires and corporate executives, many of them so charmed by Einhorn's New Age vision that they stood by him even after his arrest for a murder so grisly an entire city had gasped.

In 1979, 18 months after the disappearance of Einhorn's blond and wispy, tragically beautiful 30-year-old lover, Philadelphia police climbed the stairs to his shabby second-floor apartment. In a steamer trunk no more than a few feet from the bed where Einhorn slept, homicide detective Michael Chitwood found the mummified body of his girlfriend. Holly Maddux's skull had been fractured in six or more places under the angry force of a blunt object. Chitwood, now the police chief in Portland, Maine, remembers the dialogue to this day: "I turned to Einhorn and said, 'It looks like we found Holly.' And he said to me, 'You found what you found.'"

She had been dead so long her wasted remains weighed 37 pounds. Einhorn, never at a loss to explain the mysteries of the universe, calmly assured his minions he had been framed and relished the chance to prove it at his murder trial. But just days before it began in early 1981, he ran.

The D.A., the FBI, Interpol, national police from half a dozen countries — through the decades and across the map of Europe and Scandinavia — they all chased Einhorn. There were stakeouts; interviews with monied acquaintances, including an international rock star and a billionaire socialite; and even a brief attempt by a vigilante cyberposse from Australia to stalk the computer junkie by Internet. Three times in those 16 years, police were close enough to feel his heat. Each time, Einhorn melted away. Now, in remote Champagne-Mouton, another chance.

At 7:30 a.m., the cover of darkness was just peeling back. The Swedish wife, Annika Flodin, 46, answered the knock. "You're living with a dangerous man," a gendarme told her. She said nothing. Quickly, they pushed past her and up the stairs, following their guns. Lying naked in bed was a white-haired 57-year-old man who insisted he was Eugene Mallon, not Ira Einhorn. Police handcuffed him, questioned him at the tiny local police station near the church, whose steeple knifes above the rooftops of centuries-old stone houses, and drove him two and a half hours to a prison near Bordeaux. Though his physical appearance had changed dramatically in his years on the lam — he had lost 50 pounds and whacked off his long hair and beard — his fingerprints hadn't. In Philadelphia the long-suffering DiBenedetto received a fax from the Justice Department.

13 June Interpol—France Interpol—Washington Please be advised that EINHORN, Ira, was placed under extradition imprisonment at the prison of Gradignan, Bordeaux.

DiBenedetto, who lives with his wife and daughter in a Philadelphia neighborhood of hard work and modest dreams, bought a bottle of Bordeaux to celebrate. "It was way out of my price range. About $13," says DiBenedetto, whose salary is $52,600. But he drank only one glass. He is saving the rest for the day when Einhorn is returned to Philadelphia, where, in absentia, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1993.

It could be a long wait. Through a messy web of international bureaucracy, politics and law, Einhorn is nowhere near being dragged home to serve his life sentence. After his extradition hearing Sept. 2 in Bordeaux, his Parisian attorney, Dominique Tricaud, who claims to have never lost an extradition case, told TIME that in 20 years he has "never been more confident about a case." The French, he says, will not send a man back to a "barbaric" country where he was tried without being present to defend himself. If Tricaud is right, the chase will be over. DiBenedetto, after finally bagging his quarry, will watch Einhorn disappear into the Impressionist painting in which he has lived for the past four years. And the charmed Einhorn, convicted of a horrific murder, will have won a sentence that defies logic and human consideration: Life in the south of France.

The story had been absolutely epic in Philadelphia, touching off endless rounds of horror and disbelief. Ira Einhorn? Peace-loving, earth-hugging Ira Einhorn? In the March 29, 1979, Philadelphia Daily News, the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island was nearly invisible under the mutant block letters at the top of Page One.

"HIPPIE GURU" HELD IN TRUNK SLAYING

Dominating the page was the man who, with atomic energy and electric-blue eyes that alternately charmed and haunted, had dominated every conversation he'd ever had. Einhorn wasn't on a weight-loss program back then. Cross a bear with a man, take away all grooming implements and you get Ira, who considered himself too mythic to bathe regularly or use his given name. Einhorn means "one horn," so he called himself the Unicorn. When it wasn't fair maidens he was after, it was the company of nags like Rubin, Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg. He ingested enough drugs to kill a whale. He organized be-ins. He called himself a planetary enzyme and "sort of smelled like a hoagie with onions all the time," as a friend puts it. For Philadelphia, a social and political backwater in which consciousness raising was a billy club to the head, Einhorn was, all alone, a connection to the psychedelic world.

But the irony and magic of Einhorn were that countless establishmentarians were his friends too. Ira had a "brilliant network," says George Keegan, a Sun Oil Co. executive who later formed a touchy-feely neighborhood-development group with Einhorn. "He knew enough corporate people to get our projects funded simply by strolling into people's offices and asking for the money."

Not everyone bought into the World According to Ira. A lot of ideas but "nothing to hold onto," recalls Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Claude Lewis. "Total b.s.," concurs Joel Bloom, president emeritus of the Franklin Institute Science Museum. But with knowledge stolen from years of voracious reading, Einhorn charmed many into believing the planet was warping into new frontiers and only the Unicorn could lead them into the Age of Aquarius. Whether it was politics, environment or computer science, "he was three or four steps ahead of you at every turn," says Norris Gelman, one of Einhorn's attorneys. As if hypnotized, the suits responded with free lunches, grants, consulting contracts, four-figure speaking fees. A local communications company hired Einhorn to mediate a neighborhood power-plant dispute, then for years afterward sponsored his space travel by mailing copies of his scribblings and those of other "forward thinkers" to a growing list of international contacts.

Einhorn won a teaching fellowship at Harvard in the '70s. In the '60s he had taught an alternative-education class at Penn, his alma mater, and once reportedly broke out the joints, stripped naked and danced in the classroom. Thirty years ago, not everyone was after an M.B.A.

Warts and all, "Ira charmed the city," says Lewis. And countless women.

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