Home At Last

John Maddux hopes his family can heal now that the man accused of murdering his sister has finally been extradited by French authorities.
Mark Graham

ALVARADO--There are days now--rare but more frequent than he'd ever thought possible--when John Maddux's life follows a routine path that he finds both welcome and comforting. But then, with the slightest provocation, his mood will darken and the memories flood back, returning him to that moment almost a quarter of a century ago when he learned that his sister had been murdered.

Recently, he woke to a day in which his most pressing matter would be persuading a friend to adopt one of the new kittens his pet cat Cammie was in the process of weaning. That was before the call came and the 52-year-old Vietnam vet found himself back on the emotional roller coaster he's been riding since a March day in 1979.

It was then that the badly decomposed body of his sister Holly, missing for 18 months, was discovered hidden in a trunk in the Philadelphia apartment of her boyfriend, counterculture guru Ira Einhorn, one of the organizers of the first Earth Day in 1970.

Since that time, the milestones of Maddux's life have been measured by the murder and its seemingly never-ending aftermath: There was that rainy April afternoon in his hometown of Tyler when the funeral service for blond and pretty Helen "Holly" Maddux was conducted; the arrest of an arrogant and self-absorbed Einhorn; the preparation for trial and, then, his sudden flight from prosecution to parts long unknown. In 1988, John's father, Fred, still grieving Holly's murder, committed suicide. Two years later his mother, Liz, passed away. John will forever believe that it was Einhorn who caused his parents' deaths.

Finally, in '93 there was a rare trial in absentia in Philadelphia, where the elusive Einhorn, thousands of miles away from the courtroom, was convicted of murder. And, then, in the spring of 1997, authorities learned he was living on the outskirts of Paris in the wine-country village of Champagne-Mouton with a wealthy Swedish woman he'd recently married. In the years since his pretrial flight, he had adopted several aliases and lived in England, Ireland and Sweden before settling in France.

Yet even after Einhorn's arrest on his 57th birthday, the Maddux family's nightmare continued. The French, wary of the American judicial system, particularly its fondness for the death penalty, refused a request that he be extradited. Repeatedly, John and his sisters--Buffy Hall of Everman, Meg Wakeman of Seattle and Mary Maddux of Stockbridge, Massachusetts--traveled to Europe in hopes of convincing the French authorities to allow Einhorn's return. U.S. authorities assured the French that they would even grant the already-convicted killer a new trial. What they encountered was a legal quagmire. Even as the State Department and the Philadelphia district attorney agreed that the death penalty would not be sought, appeals were denied. And new appeals filed.

As recently as late last year the Maddux family judged chances of the fugitive ever returning to American soil a long shot ("A Killer Abroad," December 14), despite the fact the extradition request had finally been agreed to by French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

Then, earlier this month, John answered the phone to hear his sister Hall calling with news he'd doubted he'd ever hear. In Paris, the Council of State, France's highest administrative body, had rejected Einhorn's appeal to dismiss the extradition order, finally clearing the way for the man who killed his sister to be returned.

Too often disappointed, too regularly frustrated by the elusive tactics of the man who used to refer to himself as a "planetary enzyme" and signed his writings, "the Unicorn," John Maddux's reaction was tempered. "This," he says, "is progress."

Nor was he in the least surprised at a final grandstanding tactic of the Harvard-educated fugitive.

Moments after the Council of State announced its decision, Einhorn's Paris-based lawyer Dominique Tricaud placed a call to the 200-year-old ivy-covered farmhouse where his client had been living. "Do nothing stupid," the attorney shouted into his cell phone. Einhorn responded by saying, "I'm doing it now," before hanging up the phone.

With that, the now 61-year-old Einhorn placed a knife to his own throat. The French media later referred to it as a suicide attempt. Einhorn labeled it a "protest." John Maddux called it "typical of Einhorn's cowardice." Hall viewed it as "vintage Ira...a pile of horse manure."

Indeed, the wound was not life-threatening. In fact, only moments after inflicting it, Einhorn sat in his kitchen, blood soaking his shirt and the superficial wound at the base of his neck in full view, as he invited a French television crew in for an interview. Railing against Prime Minister Jospin, he told the media, "He is sending me back to America where I will stay for the rest of my life in prison, without mercy."

Only after the impromptu news conference during which Einhorn again protested his innocence of the murder did a doctor bandage his wound and he walked unassisted to a waiting ambulance.

"It was so typical of him," John Maddux says. "The so-called suicide attempt was just a ploy to gain him more time. You don't have to be Perry Mason to see through what he was trying to do."

Even as the ambulance drove from the Einhorn home, the fugitive's attorney told members of the media that he didn't think the authorities would arrest him while he was hospitalized. The Unicorn was still buying time.

His legal team immediately began preparing one last-gasp effort to block his return to the United States. With French avenues exhausted, they appealed the extradition ruling to the European Court of Human Rights. Yet even French authorities pointed out that the European Court of Human Rights had no legal obligation to halt the extradition. In short order, Einhorn was arrested, turned over to American authorities at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport and escorted onto a U.S. government-chartered jet. In the early-morning hours of last Thursday he arrived at Philadelphia International, handcuffed, wearing a bulletproof vest and in the company of U.S. marshals, an FBI agent and a homicide detective from the Philly police. Within hours he was being processed at the Graterford State Prison.

"Not until we got word that he was in the air," says John Maddux, "did we breathe easy. Up to that time, my worst nightmare continued to be that we'd be contacted with word that Einhorn had somehow managed to disappear again. Nothing he might have done would have surprised me. We'd been at this too long to take anything for granted."

In truth, that was never likely to happen since French authorities had assigned a dozen plainclothes officers to watch over the fugitive before his arrest.

As he listened to Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham outline plans for retrying Einhorn, Maddux admitted that the fast-paced events of recent days had not yet settled in. "All I know right now," he says, "is that I can smile and really mean it for the first time in years. Finally, I can wake up in the morning and not have my first thought be that the son of a bitch is still at large."

For the first time in more than two decades, John Maddux says, he feels as if his life has been returned to him. The roller coaster ride has ended. Now he can return to the business of finding new homes for Cammie's kittens.

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >