Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ira Einhorn: The Unicorn Killer

Counterculture Killer

When the Philadelphia police came to the apartment building at 3411 Race Street at 9 a.m. on the morning of March 28, 1979, they weren't too sure what they would find. The Powelton Village district of the city was not a high-crime area; it was too collegiate for that, housing the University of Pennsylvania within and emanating a scholastic aura. As well, the person whose quarters they were just about to search was not, by the farthest stretch of the imagination, the type of individual who would commit the type of crime for which he was suspected.

Stepping into the foyer as a group, the police — a mix of plainclothesmen and uniformed officers — watched quietly as their commander, Detective Michael Chitwood, pressed the caller button under the name, EINHORN, stenciled above it. The cops paused a moment, waiting, studying the dimness and age of the entranceway, before an electronic buzzer sounded to open the security door to the stairwell. When Chitwood, leading the entourage up the wooden steps, saw the fat man with a grisly beard in a bath robe staring down at them from the landing, his first thought was, "He doesn't look like an icon."

But, there he was, looking half-asleep more than anything. The fat man with the unkempt beard, the King of the Radicals, the Prince of Flower Power, the Guru of Peace and Love. He called himself poetically, "Unicorn," because the name Einhorn (a German-Jewish name) means "one horn". But, this character was not a myth; he was very real and had created from an innocent era a flip-side world of reefers and LSD and free love. His was an innovation in the Age of Aquarius and he was the Chief Aquarian in Philadelphia, at one time revered by the "new generation" of the 1960s.

Now, as the detectives ascended the steps, this self-styled guru, considered as great as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, wore a bathrobe stained with rust, his dirty ankles and dirtier toenails protruded from under. Coming yet closer, the detective chief thought he sensed a scratch of worry in his eyeballs. Chitwood passed him a search warrant, told him to read it, then sign it. The Unicorn, he noticed, had body odor.

Neighbors below Einhorn's flat had been complaining for some time that that they were detecting a terrible stench coming through the floorboards, accompanied by an occasional oozing of putrid brown matter that stained their ceiling. They tried to paint it out and sanitize the smell with disinfectants. But, the odor increased. And the oozing continued. When the building foreman investigated the problem, Einhorn refused to let the man check the closet from which the smell seemed to be coming.

The city police got wind of this occurrence, they started wondering if maybe — just maybe — it had something to do with a body they had been unable to find for the last 18 months. That is, what might be left of Holly Maddux, Einhorn's old flame, who had disappeared one day into the ether.

Holly's disappearance hadn't made sense to her family in Tyler, Texas, not from day one. She had been bright, beautiful and bouncy; and, while not particularly overjoyed with the essentials of her life back in September, 1977, she just didn't seem the kind of woman who would run off to a deserted isle or join a left-wing group of dissidents as had Patty Hearst. But, disappeared she had, Ira said back then. Gone to the store and never returned.

The relationship between Einhorn and his live-in girlfriend had been, to say the least, stormy over the five years they had been together. She had been a fresh, blue-eyed former cheerleader-turned-Bryn Mawr student-turned women's libber when they met in a college café. He, being one of the politically vocal icons of the time, totally overwhelmed her at first.

Physically, they were the odd couple. Einhorn, a hulk of a man, a behemoth at 5' 10" and 230 pounds, wore a prophet's beard, went unbathed and carried a gut that stretched the belly of his undersized, tie-dyed T-shirts to the limit. She, in contrast, bore the carriage of a ballerina, gliding as if on air, petite and whispy, of translucent skin and tiny movements. Her sister later compared her to "a Michelle Pfeiffer". Her smile glowed and brought a ray of sunshine that totally drew attention away from the bear that shuffled beside her.

But, the Beauty found the Beast magnetic and his genius captivating. Her ultra-conservative, church-going parents were aghast when she took up with the paunchy, hairy liberal who defied the social standards, but they cooly accepted it. She was already 25 years old when they decided to share the Race Street apartment and beyond their control.

"Maddux had a younger brother and three younger sisters. When she brought Ira home to Texas to meet the family, they were horrified," reported Time magazine, "Like a caveman, Ira began eating ravenously. While the family said grace, he scratched and clawed at his poison ivy blisters, and he treated Holly as if she were his personal maiden." Of the visit, Holly's sister, Elisabeth recalled, "We concluded that he basically came down there to try and promote a rift between Holly and my father."

As the couple's lives together progressed, Holly slowly realized that he was self-centered, abusive and even brutal. Strange for someone who hated Vietnam for its violence and preached the essence of peace in man and matter. Eventually, several months after the supper in Texas, Holly confessed to Elisabeth that she wanted out of the mess.

"Ira had a dark side at odds with the values he professed," Newsweek asserted. "It ranged from his overpowering ego to his domineering and sometimes violent relationships with women. Yet he never paid a price for this. During the live-and-let-live 1960s, Ira was almost never called on to answer for his behavior. (Before he met Holly) there were episodes in which he attacked women who had rejected him. He strangled one of them until she fell unconscious. Several years later after hitting a second woman over the head with a Coke bottle, he wrote in his journal, 'Violence always marks the end of a relationship.'"

Maybe Holly remained with him so long because she was afraid to leave, friends and family conjectured. He was known, after all, to have threatened her. "Only slowly did Holly realize that she could overcome Ira's dominating presence," Newsweek continued. "She decided to leave him. But, Ira was in a frenzy at the idea of losing her."

Ira Einhorn (left) and Abbie Hoffman
Ira Einhorn (left) and Abbie

Holly moved to New York. There, she began a romance with a man named Saul Lapidus who was kind and gentle to her and represented every warm emotion that the Unicorn lacked. Holly called Einhorn from Lapidus' apartment to sever their relationship once and for all. When he heard this, and understood that there would be no compromise this time, he raged. "Get over here now or I'll throw your personal belongings onto the street!" he ranted. She left for Philadelphia immediately. That was Sept. 9, 1977.

She was never seen again.

Not long afterwards, the Maddux family became apprehensive. Mrs. Maddux's birthday had come and gone without a salutation from the usually-considerate Holly. Not only was this was the first time she had forgotten any relative's birthday, but she had never gone more than two weeks without telephoning. When they called the Einhorn apartment to speak to her, no one ever answered the phone. Finally, they notified the Philadelphia police.

Ira was questioned, but, with a shrug, explained that she had gone out a couple of weeks previously to the neighborhood co-op to buy some tofu and sprouts. "I never saw her again," he said, adding that they had been having relationship problems and he assumed she had finally made good on her promises to leave him. Most likely, because he was the Unicorn, cult hero and activist, the police walked away, without a doubtful glance backward.

Dissatisfied, the Madduxes hired two private detectives, former FBI agents, to investigate their daughter's disappearance. They sought out and interviewed dozens of people who knew both Holly and Einhorn, as well as Einhorn himself, whom they found uncooperative. But, then they uncovered a practical lead. Two Einhorn female associates stated that a couple days after Holly's disappearance the Unicorn had sought their help in disposing of a trunk that contained (what he referred to as) "secret documents." The friends never helped him and as far as they were concerned the trunk was probably still in Einhorn's possession. Now the Philadelphia police grew interested.

In the meantime, the Unicorn had continued his normal existence, no longer rallying crowds of bell bottoms and bandanas, but reworking his 1960s doctrines into the post-dissident climate. He accepted speaking tours, taught alternative education classes and convinced the pinstriped business world of the Fortune 500s that their money could save the earth through ecological awareness.

"(Einhorn) became a New-Age networker with CEOs…Sold them blueprints of the future," exclaims Maralyn Lois Polak in the WorldNet Daily. "(He) launched (Philadelphia's) Earth Day celebration. Ran for Mayor of Philadelphia as a self-proclaimed Planetary Enzyme, a catalyst for global change." 

Newsweek added, "His unmistakable wild laugh could often be heard at his favorite restaurant, La Terrasse, near his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, as he mesmerized some guy in a suit with ideas from the edge — anything from quantum physics to New Age management theories."

And, between it all, he won a semester-long fellowship to Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

But, on March 28, 1979, his world changed. Detectives put together the strangely shaped little pieces of the Unicorn's puzzle: a missing girlfriend who wanted out; a trunk with "secret documents" he needed to get rid of; a lackluster team-playing effort with Maddux's private investigators; unexplainable but rancid brown liquid seeping through his floorboards; his refusal to let the janitor examine the source of the smell.

Detective Chitwood and his men explored Einhorn's small apartment rather hastily, going through general motions; but they were really building up for what they all felt was the denouement: the closet. The closet. The one he kept padlocked, and for which he lost the key; the closet off the screened-in porch that seemed to breed odd odors. As Chitwood stepped before the door, he too noticed the smell. A pungent smell. A rotting smell.

While a photographer recorded each of his moves for legal purposes, Chitwood snapped the lock with a crowbar. The closet was about three feet deep. And the camera flashed again and again as the detective yanked from the shelves one damaging piece of evidence after another. Holly's suitcase, packed. Her purse, full, including her driver's license and social security card. Boxes and bags of women's clothing and effects. Then he saw what he came for.

"Michael Chitwood took off his suit jacket. He was now ready to open the trunk," wrote Steven Levy in The Unicorn's Secret. "Chitwood opened the two side latches (then) the hasp-type latch in the middle...He opened the trunk. The foul odor Chitwood noticed was now much stronger…" He asked one of his men for a pair of rubber gloves.

Newspapers dating from September 15, 1977, and earlier covered what was underneath. A second layer consisted of packing styrofoam and plastic Sears bags, crumpled up. "He slowly scooped the foam aside," Levy goes on. "After three scoops, he saw something. At first he could not make out what it was, because it was so wrinkled and tough. But then he saw the shape of it — wrist, palm, and five fingers, curled and frozen in their stillness...He dug just a little deeper , following the shriveled, rawhide-like hand, down the wrist, saw an arm, still clothed in a flannel shirt. And he had seen enough."

He turned to the Unicorn, whose expression was still blasé. "It looks like we've found Holly's body," he said.

The Unicorn shrugged with indifference, as he did in the good old days when the campus police caught him puffing on a joint. "You found what you found."


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