Who Was the 'Unicorn Killer'? How a 1960s Activist-Turned-Murderer Evaded Extradition for 23 Years
Last Friday, the convicted murderer known as "The Unicorn Killer," an environmental activist and hippie guru who fled to Europe before his trial and avoided extradition for more than 20 years, died in prison at at the age of 79. He died of natural causes, according to Pennsylvania corrections officials.
Ira Einhorn, whose surname means unicorn in German, had been serving a life sentence for murdering his ex-girlfriend Holly Maddux in 1977.
Maddux disappeared after collecting her belonging from the home she shared with Einhorn in Philadelphia, police said.
Einhorn reportedly told police that she had gone out to buy tofu and sprouts and never returned, an alibi that began to fall apart when neighbors started complaining of a foul smell emanating from his apartment.
Eighteen months after her disappearance, police found her partially mummified body in a trunk stowed in Einhorn's closet.
While on the stand, Einhorn maintained that the CIA had murdered Maddux and framed him for his knowledge about military activity, according to a reporter covering the trial.
But long before then, Einhorn evidently built up a cult of personality and used it to evade avoid detection and extradition after fleeing to Europe days before his trial was set to begin.
"He was a guru like there never have been gurus," writer Kiki Olsen told the Guardian in 1999. "I mean people, important people, just used to sit at his smelly feet."
A friend who knew him in Philadelphia also spoke of his charisma.
"In those days, he was a part of everything that was happening in Philadelphia," George Keegan told the Guardian. "Everybody knew Ira, and he knew everybody. He had a lot of magnetism, and he drew people into his orbit."
He reportedly was even paid as an adviser for leading companies at the time who wanted to be seen as apart of the hippie culture sweeping the nation.
While in Europe, he lived in several countries under an alias and married Swedish heiress Anika Flodin.
In 1997, Einhorn was living in a small village in France when he was finally caught in a converted windmill and arrested, the Associated Press reported. He was extradited to the U.S. four years later after the French government was assured he would be given a new trial and would not face the death penalty.
He was convicted of murder after a month-long trial and sentenced to life without parole.
Upon learning of Einhorn's death, Maddux's sister Elisabeth Hall told the Philadelphia Inquirer that she is glad that chapter is now closed, although Holly's memory continues to live on.
“She was such an Earth mother,” Hall told the Inquirer. “I’m an artist now. I feel like sometimes she’s looking over my shoulder at what I’m doing. She’s very much alive in my consciousness.”
A former high school classmate described Holly as a gifted dancer and artist and a sensitive, caring person, according to a post on an online memorial for alumni of her high school.
"One thing that makes it difficult to describe Holly after all these years is that when she was murdered, she was not finished becoming herself yet," the classmate wrote. "She possessed such enormous potential."
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