A Killer Abroad

"Violence always marks the end of a relationship..." --from the journals of convicted murderer Ira Einhorn

On days like this, when the wintry skies signal a chill, she stands at her kitchen window looking out onto the rolling Tarrant County pasture where a couple of mares leisurely feed on the rain-greened grass. And a memory nearing a quarter century old comes rushing back for Elisabeth (Buffy) Hall.

Speaking in a soft, raspy voice, the 41-year-old mother of two recalls a long ago high school-sponsored trip abroad that provided a surprise opportunity to briefly see her older sister, who was visiting London. There, as they spoke of friends and family, of old times as children growing up in Tyler, Texas, as they assured each other of their respective well-being, Hall had no way of knowing it was the last time she would see Helen (Holly) Maddux alive.

Or that soon one of the driving forces in her life and those of her siblings would be a seemingly endless demand for justice that has been glacially slow in coming.

Just a matter of days after Hall saw Holly, eldest of the five Maddux children, one-time John Tyler High School honor student, cheerleader and graduate of Bryn Mawr University, her sister disappeared. Eighteen months later, in March 1979, her mummified body, grotesquely withered from 110 to just 37 pounds, was found inside a steamer trunk hidden away in the padlocked closet of her Philadelphia lover. The medical examiner's report indicated she had suffered at least six blows to the head "with an inordinate amount of force."

Arrested and charged with murder was Ira Einhorn, a controversial Philly celebrity whom Maddux had, during that long ago London visit, told her then 16-year-old sister she was planning to leave. "She told me that day that she was going to return to the United States and begin a new life which did not include Ira," Buffy Hall remembers. "When I got home and told my parents, they were so thrilled they wanted to dance in the street."

Finally, the Maddux family had reason to believe, the disastrous and destructive five-year relationship Holly had fallen into was coming to an end. But not in the nightmarish manner that haunts them to this day.

During the next two decades, Holly Maddux's murder would take them along a Byzantine course through court appearances and Einhorn's flight abroad; through his conviction of the crime in a trial at which he was not even present; and through years of frustrating silence during which his whereabouts were not known. Even when he was ultimately located, living in a remote French village, there would be a still-ongoing battle with an international legal system that today allows him to remain free from the life sentence he has been dealt. It would become a story watched over as a generation has come of age; a story that cries out for finality.

It was, in retrospect, a pairing that seemed as improbable as it was passionate.

Young Holly, pretty and smart enough to be eligible for Mensa membership, eager to break the bonds of her quiet Texas upbringing, ignored the pleas of her conservative, authoritarian father to consider enrolling at Texas A&M and traveled east. Leaving the Class of '65 behind, she wanted to explore an outside world that included a more intellectual, freethinking lifestyle. "She was," reflects former John Tyler classmate Jim Rex, "probably 10 years ahead of everybody else in her thinking." While most of her classmates were content with the traditional southern mindset of Texas teenagers--dating, football games, pop music, and leisurely good times--she supplemented her academic successes with studies of ballet and judo, art and synchronized swimming.

In October 1972, having graduated from Bryn Mawr with a fine arts degree and in the process of determining the next step in her life, the petite blonde was introduced to Einhorn in a Philadelphia restaurant where the local celebrity often held court. Two weeks later, she moved into his apartment, beginning a volatile relationship that, according to friends, was equal parts love and hate, always controlled by the enigmatic and charismatic Einhorn.

Seven years older, Einhorn, a Philadelphia native, was a product of and active participant in the drugs-sex-and-rock and roll movement of the '60s. While Holly Maddux expressed her modest delight in being named salutatorian and a class favorite at her Tyler high school, Ira Einhorn had flaunted his youthful rebellion by wearing jeans and tennis shoes instead of the traditional tuxedo to the Philadelphia Central High senior prom. By the time he'd earned his degree from the University of Pennsylvania, he was an advocate and spokesman for the growing drug culture. For good measure, Philadelphia's ego-driven answer to Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg wrote and lectured on subjects ranging from the environment to his belief in UFOs, the ills of the Vietnam War to quantum physics, the paranormal to the benefits of LSD use. The bearded, longhaired hippie-turned-New Age guru authored a regular column for a local underground newspaper, and would sign his rambling, over-written essays "The Unicorn." At one time the man who delighted in referring to himself as a "planetary enzyme" even ran a half-hearted campaign for mayor of Philadelphia.