New age guru back in US to face murder retrial

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The Independent US

Friends and siblings of Holly Maddux had feared this moment would never come. The man convicted of murdering Ms Maddux in 1977 and leaving her body to mummify in a trunk in a wardrobe finally returned to American soil early on Friday in handcuffs after 20 years on the run in Europe.

Ira Einhorn, once a celebrated anti-war activist and a successful New Age corporate guru, arrived at 4am aboard a government aircraft at Philadelphia airport, after being handed over to US Marshals by the French authorities in Paris. He was immediately whisked away to a high-security prison.

His arrival in America marked the climax of an extradition struggle that dragged on for four years. It began in 1997, when police finally caught up with Einhorn, by then America's most infamous fugitive, living an idyllic, rural life with his Swedish wife, Annika, in a converted windmill in southwestern France. The French courts agreed to the extradition last week after America had given assurances that Einhorn, who was convicted in absentia in a trial in 1993, would be given a fresh murder trial on his return. The American authorities also pledged he would not be subject to the death penalty.

In a final dramatic gesture, Einhorn responded to the French decision by attempting to cut his throat and slit his wrists with a kitchen knife. He was still wearing bandages over the wounds when he climbed down from his plane yesterday. His transfer into American custody happened swiftly, however, once the extradition was given final clearance by the European Court of Human Rights on Thursday.

Einhorn was originally arrested and charged in 1979 when police uncovered the body of Holly Maddux inside a steamer trunk in his apartment, 18 months after she had disappeared, aged 30. Einhorn, who had been her lover, had told investigating authorities that she had gone to a bookshop and had never come back. Freed on $40,000 bail, Einhorn fled the United States on a plane to London with a new girlfriend just before he was due to go on trial for murder in Philadelphia in 1981.

While on the run, he used countless pseudonyms and lived in England, Ireland, Sweden, and, finally, southern France.

Buffy Hall, a sister of Holly Maddux said: "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." Ms Hall, helped by two other sisters and a brother, led a determined campaign to bring Einhorn back to America from the moment his whereabouts were uncovered in 1997.

Lynne Abraham, the Philadelphia District Attorney, confirmed that a new trial would be set if Einhorn asked for one. Pennsylvania changed its laws two years ago to allow a second trial to take place, even though Einhorn has already been convicted in absentia. She said: "Any time you have a 25-year delay in bringing anybody to trial, it's going to be very difficult, very challenging."

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