Dec 19, 1999
By Daniel Rubin, Inquirer Staff Writer
He has no passport, no driver’s license, no wallet even.
“I am the wallet,” his wife says, looking up from the lamb bourgignon she has been preparing for three hours at Moulin de Guitry, the century-old mill she bought with $100,000 from the sale of her Stockholm apartment.
His last paycheck? “Harvard,” he says. “In 1978. “
Ira Einhorn. Convicted in absentia for murdering his former girlfriend, Holly Maddux. A fugitive from Philadelphia for 16 years. A prisoner, for now, of the French countryside.
Their abundant garden between the rivers L’Argent and L’Or has helped the couple keep their expenses down to $1,100 a month – again, her contribution.
What he provides is “the brain food,” as he calls it. He devours between 300 and 500 pages a day, from as many as 10 books at once. On his night table at the moment: a Mark Helprin novel; a history of psychosomatic medicine; philosopher Henri Bergson; Nabokov in English; Proust in French.
He does most of his reading in bed, lying on his back. He needs little sleep.
His window on the rapidly changing world is the Internet. As part of negotiations with ABC for last spring’s Connie Chung interview, the network bought him a top-of-the-line Dell computer. It allows him to correspond with old allies in the battle for information about UFOs, genetic engineering, drug policies, pharmacology and the environment.
For such an information animal, there are many gaps in the Philadelphia landscaped in his mind. No skyscrapers soar past Billy Penn’s hat in the city he remembers. He is shocked to find Frank Rizzo dead, Edmund Bacon still active.
Ira Einhorn is a bull, a Taurus, charging from idea to idea, while having to stay put. Nothing turns him on more, he says, than when discussions rev up into such a state that friends are firing half sentences at each other.
“I don’t think,” he says. “I’m totally intuitive. “
He gets little of this sort of exchange at home now, and this is good, too, he says. He has learned to slow down, be patient, be present. He talks a lot of presence, how the French in this farm community “get it. ” No cell phones in cars, no 3 a.m. wake-ups to check the Tokyo Exchange, no pagers, beepers, call-waiting.
“They know it would be rude,” he says, “to interrupt a conversation to answer the phone. “
Philadelphia still runs through him, from the way he pronounces atty-tood, to Super Bowl Sundays, when he and his wife check into a motel that has a television. She bakes him soft pretzels.
“I also make blintzes,” Annika Flodin Einhorn says, her voice a soft Swedish lilt, as though she is talking about feeding a homesick child. “He also talks about hoagies – not all the time, but enough. “
He rarely listens to the radio, doesn’t have a TV. He owns all of Mahler ‘s symphonies on CD and was writing a novel about the composer when arrested in June 1997. That would have been his sixth book written on the run.
Now that Holly Maddux’s family has won a $907 million civil wrongful-death verdict, it is unlikely that a publisher would take a chance on his writing, he realizes.
Yet he seems at peace with his current life. Dinner at the Einhorns last weekend included beet root and avocado salad, pate, a sampling of local cheese, baguettes, the lamb bourgignon, and pears in a warm ginger-honey sauce – all washed down with a 1996 Rothschild Bordeaux. “As good as the last one,” he pronounced.
* A dinner date with Einhorn at Moulin de Guitry begins with a dance, a seduction. There are messages through his lawyer, then phone conversations and e-mail messages – all conveying his desire to talk about the issues he says his case raises:
The hollowness of the U.S. promise that he would get a new trial. Problems with the prosecution that resulted in his conviction in absentia and a life sentence. How his decades of activism have been reduced, by a prosecutor’s phrase, to his being “a bum who Xeroxes things. “
He promises to entertain all questions. “I’m at my best,” he says, “when pushed. “
“My wife asks that you come for three or four days. ”
First, there is a meal at home. Nothing too ambitious for the first visit. Get to know each other. Find out what makes each other tick. His eyes never waver.
At 59, he is robust, a man described by a French reporter as having the back of a Siberian wrestler. His chest measures 58 inches. He proudly carries the V-shaped torso of the Central High School running back who won a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania.
The ponytail and bard’s beard have been replaced with cowlicky white locks and a wispy goatee with a few wild hairs.
Only on the second night, when he gets into the passenger seat for the ride to dinner and the crescent moon plays on his face, electrifying his blue eyes and outlining the point of his beard, is there anything chilling about his countenance.
Annika, meanwhile, is tall, lovely, patient, red-haired and gracious. “Not,” he says firmly, “another Holly. “
He corrects her English, she corrects his memory. She is good on details. They met at a friend’s in London in 1987, and within 10 days had decided to travel together to the Canary Islands. She was running the fabric department of her mother’s three haute-couture stores in Sweden. She was 11 years younger, without higher education.
After a month of travel, he moved to her apartment in Stockholm, and when he feared an old friend was about to tip police to his whereabouts, he told her his name and that he was falsely blamed for the murder of his girlfriend.
She hid him, whisked him off to other apartments, lied to police and, years later and still on the run, looked into her mother’s eyes and swore she knew nothing about the American fugitive who had been in the newspapers.
Her mother returned her gaze, saying: “I understand if you did it out of love.”
* For three days, he has talked – the ghastly steamer trunk, the safe house, the secret rooms and plain luck that allowed him all those years of good living and accommodating women.
But now Annika wants to say something, and he falls silent, watching his wife across the dining room table, bathed in afternoon light.
The question is, did she ever think that maybe the story was true, that the man who preached peace and love in the ’60s had killed his girlfriend in 1977, stuffed her body into a trunk, and buried it in his back-porch closet?
“Of course,” she says slowly. “I had to. I had to face the possibility: Was my love for him conditional? Conditioned on the fact I perceived him to be innocent? “
He was in prison at the time – her mistake. The gendarmes came with guns drawn in June 1997, after she had listed their address on a Swedish driver’s license application.
While Einhorn was behind bars, playing bocce with gangsters and the fallen ex-mayor of Angouleme, Annika began to wonder whether he’d been lying to her all the time.
Three times a week, she rose at 4 a.m. and drove the 130 miles to La Gradignan, a medium-security facility outside Bordeaux, bearing new books and fresh laundry. For half an hour, she would grill him.
After a visit one Friday, she steeled herself and sat down with the American newspaper clippings a friend had sent as well as excerpts from The Unicorn’s Secret, Steven Levy’s book detailing the bludgeoning death of the Bryn Mawr-educated, blond Texan.
“That night, I went to bed, and I was clearly and definitely married to a murderer. “
The words hang for a moment, and her voice drops to a whisper.
“The impact of the accusations of all that came through from the papers was so negative. I woke up the next morning and thanked God that I was married to Ira, and not to the person described in those pages. “
He leans back, breathes. She is not done. She says that she concluded two things: that she loved him either way, and that he did not do it.
“I cannot say with 100 percent certainty that he didn’t kill Holly. He knows.”
* His story has not changed. Five times Connie Chung asked him whether he killed Holly. If Annika had not been napping during the taping, he says, she would have stopped the interview.
Once he assaulted a woman, he says. He lost it, and that was wrong. OK. But ask him whether he’s a murderer, and his answer is the same as it’s been for 20 years, since police opened his trunk to find the mummified body of the woman who 18 months before had told friends she was going to leave him for good.
“No, I didn’t kill Holly,” he says, his voice calm.
Then who did? This is that part that gets vague, and he understands that his answers sound as far-out as ever: CIA. DIA. KGB. Someone who wanted to discredit his work uncovering psychic warfare. He says he cannot say more, because he does not yet have all the “data. “
“If there was a body in that apartment, I wouldn’t have been able to live there,” he says. “I’m not talking about psychologically. I’m talking about the actual physical smell. “
His wife adds: “If you have a dead mouse in your floorboard, you’re very uncomfortable. “
“All I can say is,” Einhorn continues, “I’m not an idiot. The impulse would not have been to move the trunk. The impulse would have been to wrap the dead body in something and carry it out of the apartment. I had a car. . . . I had a friend who owned lots and lots of places for burying things. . . . And I’m also not squeamish – as far as I know. I’ve never really handled dead bodies, maybe that’s unfair for me to say, in terms of getting rid of something. “
There are things worth looking into, he says. Three people working at a North Philadelphia bank told a private investigator that they saw Maddux half a year after she disappeared, but that information was not initially given to his lawyer, Norris E. Gelman.
A judge ordered a hearing into the matter but found no fault. The prosecutor, Barbara Christie, said the lapse was an accident. At the 1993 trial, Gelman was able to produce only one of the witnesses, a security man who became less certain under cross-examination. Gelman says he didn’t have the money to stage a proper defense. By then, Einhorn had jumped bail, and Gelman defended an empty chair.
Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham has a rejoinder for Einhorn.
“Fine,” she says. “Come back and raise these issues at a new trial. “
The French courts said they would extradite Einhorn only if he could be assured of a second trial. So the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law granting him one.
Gelman and Ted Simon, Einhorn’s other American lawyer, say the Constitution prevents the legislature from undoing a decision by the judiciary.
“It’s a great irony,” Simon says. “He is this ‘horrifying’ person they love to hate, yet he stands for a proposition that is very important. “
The place to argue these matters is in American courts, Abraham says. “Let him talk about the CIA to a jury here. ”
Papers ordering his extradition await the signature of French Premier Lionel Jospin. The court battle ended last summer, but the Ministry of Justice has not sent over the paperwork. Earlier this month, Abraham wrote to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, asking her to apply diplomatic pressure.
How worried is Einhorn? He has been working hard, planting rosebushes in his garden. He expects to see them bloom.
“He’s really convinced everything that’s gone against him is so highly unethical,” says Meg Wakeman, a Seattle nurse who is the oldest of the surviving Maddux sisters. “There is no room in his mind for the victim, because he’s made himself the victim.”
* At Chez Jacot, a dark cafe in town, the legal and diplomatic complexities of the Einhorn case seemed lost on the five men who sat around the table drinking wine. They were more concerned with the identities of those who betrayed the Resistance in World War II, or terrorists who have set bombs recently in Paris.
“We don’t care about their past,” a retired mechanic named Jean Dumas, 75, said of the Einhorns as he sipped white wine with a dash of peach syrup. “All we see is that they are ordinary people in an ordinary town. “
Annie Devarrieux, a retired literature teacher who spends summers near the Einhorns, says that the arrest shocked the town, “but little by little, the people were conquered by the kindness of Annika and her intelligence. ”
“They were a lot more suspicious of Ira. “
But then Mayor Jack Jouaron let everyone know he supported the couple, she said, and he began a petition drive to oppose extradition. “The whole population is with them. “
Hans Das is not so sure. He and his wife, Maria, had been friends of the couple – until the arrest, and the Dases’ media interviews. Das says Annika Einhorn made it clear she no longer wanted to see them.
At best, Das says, locals treat the Einhorns with indifference. On Monday afternoon, the Einhorns were walking to town, where twice a week he must sign in with gendarmes. The couple accepted a ride to nearby Ruffec for shopping.
In a gift shop, Annika spoke animatedly with the proprietress. The woman complimented her on her French, and Annika explained that they had been living in the country eight years. They wished each other a merry Christmas, and the woman asked whether Ira was British.
“Absolutely charming,” Annika said, smiling, as she walked out into the rain. The conversation had been so pleasant. “She must not read the newspapers. “