Longform

A Killer Abroad

Page 7 of 8

It was in February 1999 that Buffy and sister Mary made yet another trip to France to attend a hearing on the requested extradition, this time accompanied by America's Most Wanted producer John Walsh, who planned to film still another show on the serpentine case.

"I was fully expecting to hear an unfavorable outcome," Buffy says, "so I'd prepared myself to be disappointed. All I had really hoped for was the opportunity to finally look Ira in the eye and let him know how I felt about him."

Again, she found, her memory had played tricks on her. "Oddly, my first thought upon seeing him was that he was not nearly as tall as I had remembered him to be. Over the years, I'd come to think of him as a much bigger man. What I finally saw, though, was just a short, fat guy with a really bad haircut."

At one point during the proceedings, in fact, Einhorn stood no more than five feet from her but for some time refused to even make eye contact. "Finally," she remembers, "he turned to me with this evil smile on his face, as if he already knew what the court's decision would be."

That smile soon vanished, however, when the judge ruled in favor of the extradition order. "I don't speak French," Buffy says, "and had no interpreter, so I didn't know what had happened until John Walsh leaned over and began hugging me, saying, 'You won. He's out of here.' All I can remember is bursting into tears."

The ruling specifically included the agreement by U.S. authorities that Einhorn would, upon returning to Philadelphia, be granted a new trial and that the death penalty would not be sought.

Though French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin finally signed the extradition papers last July, the victory has thus far been a hollow one. It was ruled that Einhorn could remain free while awaiting an appeal of the decision to the Conseil d'Etat (Council of State) and legal authorities in both France and the U.S. now anticipate that process will take two years, perhaps longer.

Thus, the long-running saga continues. Once encouraged by the court's ruling, Buffy Hall and John today gauge the chances of the now 60-year-old Einhorn being returned to a Philadelphia courtroom at "something like 80 percent--on good days."

"Who knows how long he and his lawyers can drag out the appeal process, what rabbits they can keep pulling out of the hat to keep him there," Buffy Hall says. "And, what concerns me even more is the very real possibility that once he sees things aren't going well for him, he will disappear again. I don't think anyone doubts that will happen."

Last spring in Philadelphia, a radio station noted that it was harvest season for family gardens and so sponsored an off-the-wall promotional contest. They asked listeners to submit tomatoes that bore a resemblance to the man once lionized as a counter-cultural hero in the city. All entries would ultimately be thrown at a life-sized picture of Einhorn provided by the station. The oddball show of distaste for the city's fallen hero received considerable publicity. Holly's sister Mary had even traveled from her Stockbridge, Massachusetts, home to attend.

"My guess is," Buffy says, "that when he got word of that kind of demonstration, frivolous though it might have been, it deeply bruised Ira's enormous ego. What they were doing was making fun of him--and that is something he could never tolerate."

Indeed, it must have had its effect. Following a recent--and again unsuccessful--attempt to convince the prime minister to reconsider extraditing him, Einhorn held a brief press conference. When a local reporter asked if he felt any compassion for the Maddux family, his reply was, "What I have to say about the Maddux family is: Let them eat tomatoes."

"That," says Philadelphia district attorney Lynne Abraham, "is a perfect example of the arrogance and unrepentance of Ira Einhorn."

For Buffy Hall and her siblings, it is Einhorn's attitude that now fuels their cause, energizing their determination to see justice done for a sister who, if still alive, would have recently celebrated her 50th birthday.

"We're human," John Maddux says. "We get discouraged and tired, but it seems that every time one of us gets down there's someone in the family there to lift us up." The Maddux siblings, he notes, lean upon each other a great deal.

"We may not be all that strong individually," Buffy Hall says, "but we like to think we have great strength in numbers."

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Carlton Stowers
Contact: Carlton Stowers