TIME Archive: The Ira Einhorn Case

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

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Either Flodin had married the Dublin book dealer, or, more likely, DiBenedetto suspected, she had married Einhorn, and he had changed his name to Mallon.

That was May 15, Einhorn's 57th birthday. DiBenedetto notified French authorities and gave them the Champagne-Mouton address on the driver's license application. French police, posing as tourists and fishermen, ran surveillance on the farmhouse in Champagne-Mouton. DiBenedetto waited. Days passed. Weeks passed. Finally, on Friday, June 13, word came: There had been an arrest. DiBenedetto could hardly believe it. He didn't trust it until two days later. "That was Father's Day. I thought about Holly's father, about her parents, and I just jumped up and cheered." DiBenedetto's daughter, born when he took the case, is now 15.

The early-to-bed town of farmers was bug-eyed when the case broke, but few people in Champagne-Mouton knew Einhorn, a man who spoke little French and was seldom seen except to pick up his International Herald Tribune twice a week at the village newsstand. A pile of the papers ordered for him sits there now. At the nearby police station, the gendarme who knocked on Einhorn's door wonders if ever again he will see "FBI" on the same line as "Champagne-Mouton" in the papers. There hasn't been a single crime in the village since Einhorn's arrest.

Flodin held a healing party after Ira's arrest, inviting friends to come garden with her. Georges Raynaud, Einhorn's 86-year-old bridge partner, attended. He can't believe Einhorn did it, but his wife jokes with him; make sure your new partner isn't a murderer, she says. When not in crisis, Flodin, the dutiful Earth Mother, still demonstrates against a proposed nuclear-waste dump site nearby. Mayor Jack Jouaron, 68, loves it when she comes to city hall with her leaflets, flush with political passion. "For an old man like me, it was something to talk to a beautiful blond Swedish girl like her," says Jouaron, who wonders how she can be so serene.

Six kilometers up a narrow road, a retired Dutch couple named Hans and Maria Das say they saw Einhorn and Flodin every couple of months. "He was a loudmouth," Maria says, and carried on like an attack dog when someone disagreed.

"I think he did it," she said of the murder. "Of course he did."

All Holly's siblings are older than she ever got to be, and Einhorn's arrest brought bittersweet satisfaction. Meg wants to see Einhorn in court because "I want him to look into my eyes and see what the future of Holly could have been." After the arrest, Elisabeth headed to the cemetery where her parents are buried on either side of Holly. "I want to put some roses on their graves and tell them, 'We got the bastard.'"

Not yet, they didn't.

Ira Einhorn, wearing blue jeans and a tunic made by Flodin, strolled into the Bordeaux courtroom Sept. 2 as if there had never been a body in the trunk or a pack of hounds on his trail or 16 years on the lam. He looked healthy, untroubled, his face ruddy. He played with a silver goatee and casually acknowledged Flodin, who smiled from the back of the courtroom, wearing a bright layered getup that looked as if it were stolen from the closet of Pippi Longstocking. The Unicorn had had a long time to write himself a new speech, but it must have been 16 years of writer's block. Painting himself large and important, vintage Ira, he dropped such names as Alvin Toffler, claimed he discovered "the Internet before the Internet existed" and said his life was given to the cause of nonviolent social change. He was starting in on the CIA and "the psychological components of weapons systems" when Tricaud, his lawyer, politely told him to shut up.

Tricaud argued that sending Einhorn home to America would violate his civil liberties. The French have trials in absentia, but someone so convicted in France gets a new trial once captured. Extradite Einhorn, and he could be put to death with no chance to defend himself, Tricaud wrongly told the judges. (Einhorn's sentence was life in prison, not death.) In a later interview, an adamant Tricaud described the case as an opportunity for the French to "give the United States a lesson in human rights."

Back home, concerned that French prosecutors had done a lackluster job, as Tricaud gleefully suggested, the Justice Department scrambled last week to bolster the argument for extradition. The decision is scheduled for this Tuesday. "I spent 16 years on this. I'm not going to lie down now," DiBenedetto promised.

If the decision is to extradite, the promised appeal could take years, and Einhorn will remain in French custody. If the decision is not to extradite, that's it. The Unicorn will walk into the cobblestone streets of Bordeaux with his lovely Swedish wife, the dark conspiracies that fill his head and whatever understanding he has reached with the ghost of Holly Maddux.

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