Ira Einhorn

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

Ira Einhorn
Einhorn's 1979 mugshot and a 2001 mugshot taken upon his return to the U.S.
Ira Samuel Einhorn

(1940-05-15) May 15, 1940
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Other namesThe Unicorn Killer, The Unicorn
Criminal statusIncarcerated
Criminal chargeMurder
PenaltyLife imprisonment

After his arrest, Einhorn fled the country and spent twenty-three 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", comes from the surname Einhorn, which means "unicorn" in German.

Early life and activism

Ira Einhorn was born into a middle-class Jewish family.[2][3] As a student 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] Einhorn participated in the first Earth Day event in Philadelphia in 1970, and later claimed to have been instrumental in creating and launching the event,[6] but other event organizers dispute his account.[7][8]

Murder of Holly Maddux

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 and went to New York City, where she became involved with Saul Lapidus. On September 9, 1977, Maddux returned to the Philadelphia apartment she had previously shared with Einhorn to collect her belongings (which Einhorn had reportedly threatened to throw out into the street as trash) 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. Throughout Ira Einhorn's fugitive flight he was supported by the wealthy Bronfman family and others who seemed indifferent to his murder of his ex-girlfriend and sympathy for him despite not personally knowing him.

Einhorn's initial alibi came into question when his 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 Einhorn's closet. After finding the body, a police officer reportedly said to Einhorn, "It looks like we found Holly," to which he reportedly replied, "You found what you found." Einhorn's bail was reduced to $40,000 at the request of his attorney Arlen Specter; he 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 socialite Phyllis Lambert, 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 lived there for the next seventeen years and married a Swedish woman named Annika Flodin. Back in Pennsylvania, as Einhorn had already been arraigned, the state convicted him in absentia for Maddux's murder in 1996. Einhorn was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.


Throughout Ira Einhorn's fugitive flight he was supported by the wealthy Canadian Bronfman family, heirs to the whisky fortune. Others, friends of the Bronfmans, joined them in supporting Einhorn, indifferent to his murder of his ex-girlfriend Holly.

In 1997, Einhorn was 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 US, either country may refuse extradition under certain circumstances, and Einhorn used multiple avenues to avoid extradition.

Although Einhorn was not sentenced to death, his defense attorneys argued that he would face the death penalty if he were returned to the US. France, like many countries that have abolished the death penalty, does not extradite defendants to jurisdictions that retain the death penalty without assurance that it will be neither sought nor applied. Pennsylvania authorities pointed out that when the murder occurred, the state did not practice the death penalty and so Einhorn could not be executed because the state and federal constitutions forbid 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, thirty-five members of Congress sent a letter to French President Jacques Chirac to ask 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. Therefore, in 1998, to secure Einhorn's extradition, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a bill, nicknamed the "Einhorn Law", allowing defendants convicted in absentia to request another trial. In another delay tactic, Einhorn's attorneys criticized the bill as unconstitutional and tried to get the French courts to once again deny the extradition 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 US was that the court freed Einhorn under police supervision, as French laws put restrictions on remand, the imprisonment of suspects awaiting trial. Einhorn then became the focus of intense surveillance by French police.

The matter went before Prime Minister Lionel Jospin; 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.[9] Jospin rejected the 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.[10] He then attempted to slit his own throat to avoid imprisonment[11] 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 US.[12]

Trial and penalty

Taking the stand in his own defense, Einhorn claimed that Maddux was murdered by CIA agents who attempted to frame him due to his "investigations" into the Cold War and "psychotronics".[13] After two hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Einhorn on October 17, 2002, concluding the month-long trial.[4] The following day, he was sentenced to a mandatory life term without the possibility of parole.[14] Einhorn began serving his sentence at SCI Houtzdale. In April 2016, he was transferred to SCI Laurel Highlands, a minimum security prison that provides care for inmates with health needs.[15]

See also


  1. 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. "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. "Earth Day co-founder killed, composted girlfriend". NBC News. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
  7. Earth Week Committee of Philadelphia. "Einhorn" (Letter). AMGOT.
  8. "No, Ira Einhorn Didn't Found Earth Day". 22 April 2015.
  9. "Ira Einhorn extradé" (in French). Les Verts. July 20, 2001. Archived from the original on October 26, 2013. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
  10. "Council of State Ruling".
  11. "France Agrees to Extradition Of Culprit in Killing in U.S." The New York Times. July 13, 2001.
  12. "Ex-Fugitive Convicted in 25-Year-Old Murder". AP. 18 October 2002 via The New York Times.
  13. "Dave Lindorff's 2002 article on the Einhorn trial in Salon". 2002-10-18. Archived from the original on 2010-08-31. Retrieved 2010-03-31.
  14. Steward, Stephanie (October 18, 2002). "Einhorn sentenced to life in prison". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  15. "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.
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