Longform

A Killer Abroad

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What propelled him from local oddity to full-blown avant-garde celebrity, however, was his involvement in the organizing and staging of Earth Day, a highly publicized celebration of environmental issues, in 1970. From that point his mainstream credibility grew--to a point where local Fortune 500 business leaders sought his advice and offered consultant contracts in exchange for his expertise on a variety of social issues. Harvard even summoned him to serve as a teaching fellow, lecturing students on the counter-culture of the day.

Thus Ira Einhorn, self-described pacifist and freethinker, had carved himself a high-profile niche. And through much of the '70s, girlfriend Holly Maddux alternately warmed to his fame while at the same time feeling it suffocated her own ambitions. Yet on the numerous occasions when she would be angered by Einhorn's domination, physical abuse, and regular infidelities and attempt to break away, the results were routinely the same. Promising change and devotion, Einhorn would lure her back--always to the disappointment of Holly's family.

Meg Wakeman, 44, a nurse now living in Seattle, recalls the first time she met the man ultimately convicted of killing her sister:

"She brought him to Tyler just once," Wakeman remembers, "and he went out of his way to be unpleasant to everyone. One evening as we sat down for dinner, he began eating and reaching across the table for food, even as my father was saying grace. Later, while we were sitting in the living room, Holly came in with the family photo album and asked Ira if he would like to see pictures of her when she was a child. He said, 'No, comb my hair.' I'll never forget the hurt look on Holly's face as she put the album aside and went to find a comb and brush. He just smiled, as if pleased that he'd shown everyone in the room that he was in complete control."

John Maddux, Holly's brother, 52, recalls Einhorn as "dirty and gross." "Everyone in the family was appalled," he says.

Wakeman also remembers a letter she received from her sister two years later, in summer 1977. "She wrote that she had decided to leave him and was so pleased that she'd finally realized that she was not only capable of living on her own, but really looking forward to it."

That letter, she remembers, arrived shortly before her 30-year-old sister vanished.


"In Ira Einhorn's mind, he is the only individual in the world with real intelligence. The rest of us are supposed to sit at his feet, spellbound by his every nonsensical word..."

--John Maddux, Holly's brother

Even though their relationship had disintegrated into an ongoing litany of arguments and separations, Holly had, in 1977, reluctantly agreed to accompany Einhorn on a four-month research and lecture trip to Europe. Through Denmark, Sweden, and Norway they argued. Things grew worse as they arrived in London, and on July 28, just days after her brief visit with her younger sister, Holly finally asserted her independence and returned to the United States alone. Her plan, she told Einhorn, was to find an apartment and begin her life away from him.

As soon as Einhorn returned to Philadelphia, however, he began pressuring her to reconsider. When charm failed, he threatened to throw clothing she'd left behind into the street if she didn't immediately come to his apartment for her possessions. Once more she allowed herself to be lured back. On Saturday night, September 11, the couple apparently reconciled, double-dated with friends, and attended a movie in nearby New Jersey.

Then Holly Maddux disappeared.

In the days that followed, Einhorn's explanation would take on a mantra-like tone: He had, he said, been taking a bath when Holly decided to leave on a grocery-shopping trip to the nearby Ecology Food co-op. The next he heard from her was when she phoned two days later. "I'm okay," she allegedly said. "Don't look for me. I'll call you once a week." If Einhorn was distraught over his girlfriend's leave-taking he hid it well, continuing with his ambitious social and professional schedule.

In Tyler, however, genuine concern quickly mounted. "All her life," says Buffy Hall, "Holly had been good about staying in touch with the family. Then, suddenly, the letters and calls stopped. So did the hand-made cards she always sent us on our birthdays. There were three birthdays in the family in the month of October and no one heard from her."

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Carlton Stowers
Contact: Carlton Stowers