Longform

A Killer Abroad

Page 6 of 8

Twice, members of the Maddux family traveled to France in anticipation of hearings, only to learn after their arrival at the Bordeaux courthouse that the decision on Einhorn's fate had not yet been reached. What they did learn, however, was that the French press was not only skeptical but also highly suspicious of their reason for being there. "The general attitude," recalls Buffy Hall, "was one of not being able to understand how, after 20 years, we were even concerned. I had several reporters ask why we were still upset over the matter; why we didn't just put it behind us and move on. The opinion seemed to be that after such a long period of time Ira had certainly paid for whatever sins he committed and should be left alone.

"I think, in fact, that we were viewed as a pack of gunslingers from the Texas Old West, come to town to assassinate the man who had killed our sister. The French seemed bewildered by our presence, totally oblivious to the obscenity of what this man had done."

Finally, at a December hearing before the French Cour d'Appeal (Court of Appeals), the extradition request was denied since American authorities could not legally agree to a retrial. In a matter of minutes, Einhorn was released from custody. The only time Holly's name was even mentioned, brother John says, was when Ira walked to a microphone in front of the bench to say, "I did not kill Holly Maddux." And then, John remembers, Einhorn laughed.

The lone restriction on Einhorn's freedom was a demand that he report his whereabouts twice a week to authorities investigating the possibility that he had violated French immigration laws by entering the country on a false passport.

It was shortly before 4 a.m. on a Friday in Seattle when Meg Wakeman, unable to make another trip abroad because of her job, received news of the French court's decision. "Initially," she recalls, "I was shocked. Then I became angry. It occurred to me that in protecting Ira Einhorn's civil rights they had never even bothered to consider the civil rights of my sister. To that point I had been reluctant to really get involved in the matter. It was just too painful. But on the day they set him free, I decided to go into an activist mode. The whole family did."

"We got together," says Buffy Hall, "and came to a decision that we could do one of two things: We could roll over, or we could fight like hell. We decided on the latter."

Thus, while Einhorn and his wife shopped the markets in Champagne-Mouton, chatting with shopkeepers and smiling for news cameras and driving through town in their red Fiat, the Maddux family vowed to launch a campaign for justice that continues to this day. They began lobbying government officials from the White House to the State Department; they initiated a Web site (www.ourholly.org); and they sought the ear of any member of the media willing to hear their story of un-served justice. Supporters of their cause were urged to wear holly-shaped pins and ribbons as a reminder of their sister's murder.

They quickly found they were not without allies. In Pennsylvania, state legislators, citing news reports of France's judicial decision, voted to revise the law, clearing the way for Einhorn to be re-tried if returned to the U.S. A petition demanding the fugitive's extradition and signed by 5,000 Philadelphians was sent to French government officials. NBC's Dateline, 20/20, Unsolved Mysteries, and other television news shows from as far away as Germany reported on the nightmarish story that seemed to have no end. Network officials began plans to develop a made-for-TV movie based on Levy's book on the case.

Learning that Einhorn had contacted an American publisher about a book he was allegedly writing about the case, the Maddux family decided to file a civil suit, charging him with the wrongful death of their sister. After a two-day trial in the summer of 1999, Philadelphia jurors found Einhorn guilty and ordered that he pay a staggering $907 million in damages. "We never expect to see a penny of that," says John Maddux, "but the trial served its purpose. Part of the ruling was that he would not be allowed to profit in any way from Holly's murder. And, it sent a message to him that he was not going to be allowed to get away with what he did--and that we weren't going away."

In France, Einhorn did not respond to legal papers delivered to his home. But, in an interview with the syndicated talk show "Radio America," he told an interviewer that "I am innocent of the crime and will declare that until my dying breath."

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Carlton Stowers
Contact: Carlton Stowers