CONVICTED murderer Ira Einhorn returned to Philadelphia to face murder trial

Friday, July 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Wearing handcuffs and a bulletproof vest, convicted murderer Ira Einhorn returned to U.S. soil Friday for the first time since he fled 20 years ago to escape murder charges stemming from the bludgeoning death of his girlfriend.

Einhorn, 61, arrived at Philadelphia International Airport at around 4 a.m. under armed guard, hours after he was taken into custody at his home in rural France and put on a flight in Paris. He was returned to the United States after a European court refused to halt his long-fought extradition.

As he came off the plane, a spectator yelled ``Justice for Holly Maddux,'' the woman whose mummified body was found stuffed in a trunk in the couple's apartment 18 months after Einhorn said she went to the store and never returned.

``I hope this has actually wiped that smirk off his face that we've had to look at for four years, and I'm sure he'll enjoy his stay in the Pennsylvania penal system,'' said Elizabeth ``Buffy'' Hall, a sister of Maddux. ``It's our time to smirk.''

U.S. Marshal Al Lewis said the more than eight-hour flight ``was basically uneventful.'' He said Einhorn was accompanied by three deputy U.S. marshals, an FBI agent, a Philadelphia homicide detective and a physician.

``The culmination of the tremendous efforts and cooperation and support is reflected in the fact that this aircraft is on American soil and in it is Mr. Ira Einhorn,'' Lewis said.

Einhorn was shackled and placed in a waiting U.S. marshal sedan, which took him to a federal courthouse to be transferred to a maximum-security state prison near Philadelphia.

The extradition ended two decades of flight for Einhorn, a former anti-war activist, one-time mayoral candidate and self-described ``planetary enzyme'' who was convicted in absentia in 1993 in the death of Maddux 24 years ago.

A year after Einhorn was caught in France in 1997, Pennsylvania passed a law providing for a retrial to satisfy a French requirement that foreign nationals not be extradited based on trials in absentia. Einhorn continued to vigorously fight his return.

The family didn't meet Einhorn at the airport, but planned to take a train from Washington to Philadelphia on Friday morning.

``Holly's day is now beginning,'' Maddux's sister Meg Wakeman said. ``This is the day for the person who really suffered the most. This is all for her.''

Einhorn's legal options were exhausted earlier Thursday, when the European Court of Human Rights dropped a request it made a week earlier for a delay in the extradition.

Einhorn had slit his throat last week when he lost his last French appeal. But he was not seriously injured, and the European court said Thursday in its decision that Einhorn was fit to travel. It also said U.S. officials had provided sufficient assurances that he would not face the death penalty.

France quickly decided to go ahead with the extradition.

Moments after the ruling, Einhorn emerged from his converted-windmill home with his wife. ``I'm innocent,'' he declared. ``I will be happy to go to the U.S. if the court gives me a new trial.''

Police led Einhorn from his home in the southwestern village of Champagne-Mouton and bundled him into an unmarked gray Peugeot. Seated in the back, he waved to his tearful wife, Annika, who leaned on a defense lawyer for support. The convoy left under heavy guard.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement shortly before Einhorn's flight left, saying the government decided to extradite him because U.S. authorities had agreed to grant him a second trial.

The European court in Strasbourg, in a move that confused lawyers, said it would consider Einhorn's case in September _ but also said that did not affect the extradition.

U.S. officials promised that Einhorn would not be eligible for the death penalty in his new trial because capital punishment was not legal in Pennsylvania when Maddux was killed. European Union countries generally refuse to extradite suspects who face the death penalty.

Einhorn denies killing Maddux and has said he was framed by the CIA.

At his preliminary hearing in April 1979, the courtroom was packed with professors, lawyers, civic leaders and other prominent Philadelphians who wanted to testify about his good character.

He was free on $40,000 bail when he boarded a plane for London with a new girlfriend in 1981, shortly before he was to stand trial for the murder. He lived in England, Ireland and Sweden under pseudonyms before he was arrested in France.

``This is very satisfying because we've waited so long and worked so hard,'' said Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham. ``This is the beginning, not the end.''