Convicted murderer Ira Einhorn, the hippie guru who skipped bail and lived as an international fugitive for two decades, liked to proclaim himself the father of Earth Day.
But just like everything else about the so-called “Unicorn,” who died in prison two years ago, his claim was mere boast devoid of any substance.
I had firsthand knowledge of this, having operated undercover for the FBI to become Mr. Einhorn’s “new best friend.”
To ensure that Mr. Einhorn did not disappear again and, if possible, facilitate his repatriation to the U.S.A. for facing the music.
And quite an ugly tune Ira had composed.
You see, the French had been dragging their feet about extraditing him even though it was crystal clear he had bludgeoned to death his former girlfriend, Holly Maddux, after she refused to renew their relationship.
Holly turned her back on Ira to leave his Philly apartment after coming by, at his insistence, for an in-person farewell.
For her, a final farewell.
He attacked Holly from behind, then stuffed her body in a trunk, which he then locked in a closet.
It took two years for Philly’s finest to obtain a warrant for searching Ira’s home — and only after neighbors below his apartment complained of a brown substance oozing down their walls accompanied by a terrible stench.
When detectives arrived, Mr. Einhorn opened the door completely naked, as was his style.
After breaking into his hallway closet and discovering poor Holly’s mummified remains, Ira simply said, “You found what you found.”
(Detectives also found a long-overdue library book on how to mummify a corpse.)
Ira’s defense attorney, Arlen Specter (later to become a U.S. senator), managed to get him out on bail.
Two weeks before trial, Mr. Einhorn bolted.
For the next two decades this fugitive from justice took a circuitous route through Europe, starting with Ireland where he became “Eugene Mallon,” then Sweden, where he picked up a wife, Annika, finally settling in the Charente region of France near Bordeaux.
Thanks to the efforts of a tenacious Philly district attorney’s office investigator, Mr. Einhorn was tracked (through his wife’s Swedish driving license renewal) to the pissant town of Champagne Mouton.
French police raided Mr. Einhorn’s house, fingerprinted him and confirmed it was he. They held him for a bit, then let him return to his old mill house, pending extradition proceedings.
Should-a been a slam-dunk, right?
Various radical French lawyers in Paris jumped to this murderer’s defense, pro bono.
First, they claimed (and the French courts agreed) that Ira could not be returned to the United States because of Pennsylvania’s death penalty, which France morally opposes.
The district attorney’s office and the State Department pointed out to the French government that Mr. Einhorn had already been tried in absentia, found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, not execution, so it shouldn’t be an issue.
So the French lawyers changed their stance to this: France does not believe in trials by absentia (and the French courts agreed).
Pennsylvania’s Senate graciously responded by passing a new law, just for Ira, granting him a new trial.
The French did not know what to do. So they did nothing as the Einhorn extradition saga dragged on for very many months.
That’s when I convinced my handlers at the FBI to allow me to deviate from several counterintelligence operations and tackle this criminal case, being handled by a whole other division within the bureau.
“What do you need?” asked Mike, a member of Philly’s FBI Fugitive Squad.
“Aside from your approval,” I said, “just Ira’s email address.”
“Einhorn is clever,” said Mike. “People he meets get taken by him, like he’s hypnotized them to believe their story. And he’ll probably see through this.”
“Maybe,” I said. “I like a good challenge.”
Next day, posing as a book publisher — and knowing Einhorn had written novels he wished to publish — I zapped him an email.
He responded within the hour.
A day after that, we chatted on the phone about the four novels he’d penned.
Several weeks into our correspondence, Mr. Einhorn invited me to visit him.
THE BACK END OF NOWHERE
And so it was that on 20 January 1999 I flew into Limoges, France (with a fully back-stopped legend as a book publisher) for an in-person pow-wow with Ira.
My taxi drew up across the road from the Einhorn residence in Champagne Mouton, said to be “the back end of nowhere,” at 1:15 in the afternoon. I alighted and “found what I found”: Ira Einhorn emerging from his front door.
Mercifully, he was not naked.
I shook this murderer’s hand and looked deeply into his eyes, expecting hypnotic powers. But all I could detect was a possible thyroid condition because his eyeballs, bloodshot from age or stress, protruded from their sockets. Sincere, yes (the fake kind); truthful, no.
I expected Mr. Einhorn to be a lot cleverer than the man with whom I locked eyes, the man with whom I would then spend many hours in conversation. However, my ears were destined to encounter only an intense bluster of carefully articulated but highly flatulent psychobabble.
Mr. Einhorn led me into his residence, into a dark, cold foyer, leading to a kitchen with an old wood stove, the only source of heat in this abode. It was clear as I toured their old mill house, Moulin de Guitry, that the Einhorns were in desperate need of money, not least to repair a leaky roof. Which meant he was extremely ripe for my publishing pitch.
Annika served potato leek soup, country pate, hard cheese, a tossed garden salad and baguette and listened attentively while her husband babbled a steady stream of logorrhea straight at me.
Her role in this household was to cook, clean up, haul firewood from the barn to the kitchen, stoke the oven and knit clothing. His role was to talk and occasionally listen, while bouncing back and forth to his computer station for document retrieval.
Annika was the workhorse. Einhorn’s “job” was to read, pontificate, philosophize and write. She seemed in awe of her husband, though I discerned some tension between the pair, perhaps because she did everything and he did nothing.
Referring to his cold-blooded, premeditated murder of Holly Maddux, Mr. Einhorn told me, “Maybe I did it and maybe I didn’t — that has nothing to do with it.”
Mr. Einhorn then tried to convince me that Holly was murdered by the CIA’s “Weird Desk” to frame him and end his social activism.
But like everything else that came out of this buffoon’s mouth, it was pure bollocks.
“So, what do you want to do with me, with my books?” Mr. Einhorn finally asked.
Put you behind bars, scumbag, throw away the key. Who gives a crap about your books.
Of course, I did not actually say that.
Instead, I asked which of his novels was his favorite.
He told me its title and said he wanted $25,000 for it. I lied that such a price could be obtained.
Chamber 17, my room in nearby Hotel Plaisance, was musty, dusty and rusty, the size of a walk-in closet, illuminated by a naked lightbulb that dangled from the ceiling; with an infirm bed and hard pillow roll with stained bedcover completed the furnishings.
Within the walls of this room, I experienced a long, eerie night punctuated by hypnagogic dreams related to the mission. At one point I felt the presence of Holly Maddux hovering over the bed, coaxing me onward. “Right on,” Holly seemed to whisper at me. “Please get this bastard.”
Next morning, Mr. Einhorn proudly handed me his “literary masterpiece” before descending into another lengthy diatribe, this time about digitalization, which he claimed to have partly invented (along with Earth Day).
By the time I left Champagne Mouton, Ira and I were practically old friends.
You could call this cretinous conman a “guru” or a “messiah” to get on his good side, but the moniker he liked best for himself was “futurist.” (When I called him this, he said, “You really know how to communicate!”)
And his future, now that I was in the picture, was about to get very dim.
My memos to the FBI included this brief review of Mr. Einhorn’s “masterpiece”:
“A long rambling essay disguised as a novel. Its most blatant flaw (and there are many) is this: A novelist is supposed to show, not tell. But this manuscript only tells, never shows. It is an amalgamation of great philosopher-meets-new age spiritualism, filched from others and regurgitated in Ira’s incoherent psychobabble.”
Nonetheless, we determined to go through the motions of pre-publishing his wretched novel while awaiting new approvals from Bureau higher-ups and monitoring the legal process in France.
A few months later a jury awarded Holly Maddux’s siblings a civil judgment of $907 million against Mr. Einhorn. This elated him because he believed it made him worth that much.
“With interest, I’m the billion-dollar man!” he crowed to me.
He also believed it would elevate his case in the public eye and help sell the novel he expected me to publish.
RETURN TO CHAMPAGNE MOUTON
Two years passed, and still the French continued to drag their feet.
So it was time for my return to Champagne Mouton to see Mr. Einhorn face-to-face, check in on his thinking and plans, keep the ruse going even though his book had still not been published (much to his annoyance).
By this time, Ira’s own face had become ravaged with stress, cheeks swollen with malevolence, teeth rotting, gums rotted upon a barrel-shaped body that seemed to leave a trail of pig snot in its wake.
I extended my right hand, but Mr. Einhorn wanted to hug, ensuring that I catch a whiff of his putrid breath.
Over a multi-course truffle dinner at Restaurant de Charme, I told Mr. Einhorn about my recent escapades in Cuba, which I explained as scouting book publishing opportunities. (In reality, I had been on an undercover counterintelligence mission for the FBI.)
Mr. Einhorn listened with unusual attentiveness. Then he said in a whisper, “That’s where my lawyer has advised me to go. Cuba. He says he can make the introductions and arrangements. All my friends have been urging me to flee.”
So here it was — surprise, surprise. As we at the Bureau had always believed, this stinkard was planning an exit-stage-left before crunch-time.
“But aren’t you watched by the French police?” I asked him.
Mr. Einhorn nodded. “I have THREE sets of surveillants,” he proudly boasted. “The local gendarmes, the anti-terrorist squad in Paris and the federal intelligence agency.”
“So how can you flee to Cuba?”
“Very easy,” Mr. Einhorn replied. “I’d only have to walk across my garden.”
“But don’t you have to check with the cops every few days?”
“I’d have five days before they knew I was gone,” Mr. Einhorn whispered. “Annika will stay and pretend all is well.”
The last thing we wanted to hear was that Mr. Einhorn might end up in Havana, where scores of fugitives roamed freely, courtesy of Fidel Castro’s policy for granting political asylum to American criminals. And Mr. Einhorn’s home was driving distance to Madrid, from which he could hop a nonstop flight with little hassle.
When I returned to Washington D.C., I briefed the FBI Fugitive Squad from Philly on Mr. Einhorn’s escape plans.
Our timing for this was inadvertently exquisite.
Holly Maddux’s two sisters and brother were scheduled to meet with U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to vent their frustration on France’s relentless foot-dragging over the extradition proceedings with regard to their sibling’s murderer.
In advance, Mr. Ashcroft naturally requested a briefing on the Einhorn case. And when the U.S. attorney general learned that Mr. Einhorn was plotting an escape to Cuba, he presumably telephoned his French counterpart and demanded action.
Apparently, the French were not amused — and did not desire to be embarrassed, as they would have been if Mr. Einhorn pulled off an escape. All of a sudden, months ahead of schedule, a French judge abruptly announced that Mr. Einhorn’s appeal would commence the following day, with a decision expected the day after. Not only that, Mr. Einhorn’s house was then surrounded by 40 police officers.
Ira scribed this email to me: “Some judge freaked. No one knows why. The French government is pushing this. There are now eight cars parked outside our house. They have also posted men in the field around my house.”
That would be the backyard Mr. Einhorn intended to walk across when it came time to boogie.
The court’s decision went against Mr. Einhorn.
To protest his certain and very imminent extradition, Mr. Einhorn invited a French TV crew into his house and, while they filmed, lamely pierced his own throat with a kitchen knife. If Ira meant to kill himself (I’m certain he was too cowardly for that), he failed miserably. All he managed to buy himself was one week before French authorities declared him fit to travel.
Tension reigned supreme on the Fugitive Squad in Philly. Squad members were still worried their culprit would make a run for it.
Mr. Einhorn had planned a party at his home — a “getting put away bash” (along with Annika’s 50th birthday) — and Philly’s concern was that he would use it as a cover to mask an escape.
But at eight o’clock next morning, Mr. Einhorn confirmed in an email to me his presence at home: “The media are gathering outside… a SWAT team has joined 7 other police services. C’est fou [it is mad].”
The message wasn’t good enough for Philly. “Call him,” they instructed me. “Make sure he’s there.”
I phoned, spoke with Annika, heard Ira yakking in the background. Then I phoned Philly: “He’s there.”
At 2 p.m. French police officers bundled Mr. Einhorn into a car and raced him to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, where a U.S. government jet and my buddies from the Fugitive Squad stood by, waiting to greet him.
At about 1:10 am Paris time I received a call from a member of the Philly team, who had just cuffed Mr. Einhorn’s wrists and buckled him into a seat. “We got him! We’re just about to take off!”
True to their word, the state of Pennsylvania gave Einhorn a new trial. A jury took just four hours to convict him for the murder of Holly Maddux.
A few months later, Mr. Einhorn wrote me a handwritten letter from Houtzdale State Prison: “According to Annika, you have just disappeared. When we last talked, you said you would get to work getting my book published …” Blah, blah, blah.
The man who thought he was smarter than everyone else did not even realize he’d been stung!
CRAIG CASE UPDATE
It seems trouble never ends for local private eye Craig Alan Case.
In addition to having clocked up numerous civil lawsuits against himself over four decades, including an ongoing case for fraud allegedly committed against a 94-year-old woman to the tune of $687,500, Mr. Case, 74, (who knows the law and should know better), now finds himself a defendant in a criminal case.
— Identity theft and Identifying Information Theft. Two felonies. If convicted, this could lead to a $10,000 fine and a three-years state prison sentence X two.
— Offering and preparing false evidence. Two felonies. Again, three years imprisonment and substantial fines x two.
— Carrying a loaded firearm on person/vehicle. Misdemeanor. A year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
This criminal complaint was filed by the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office on April 12.
Arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday.
We reached out to Josh Lynn, Mr. Case’s lawyer, but he did not respond.
Robert Eringer is a longtime Montecito author with vast experience in investigative journalism. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.