As Specter Switches, the Ira Einhorn Saga Deserves Wider Mention
By Tom Blumer
April 29, 2009
The establishment media is saying almost nothing about the man who
co-founded Earth Day, and who also happens to be in jail for life for
murder. Arlen Specter's involvement with the Ira Einhorn case is an
important event in the party-switching Senator's career that curious
readers would want to know about -- if the establishment media cared
to note it.
You know they would be bringing out similar stories quite prominently
if they existed about a Democratic senator switching parties. Look at
what the Associated Press and the Democratic Party (but I repeat
myself) laid on Joe Lieberman in 2006 ("AP Labels Joe Lieberman
'Democrats' Public Enemy No. 1'") -- and he's still considered a
reliable Democratic vote.
Time Magazine recounted the sordid case history in 1997; it's a read
the whole awful thing piece if there ever was one.
But before excerpting Time, let's look at two of the earlier
paragraphs at John J. Miller's related National Review piece in April
2004, written days before Specter barely withstood an aggressive GOP
primary challenge from then-Congressman Pat Toomey:
Between serving on the Warren Commission and becoming a senator,
Specter was twice elected district attorney in Philadelphia, where he
earned a tough-on-crime reputation. His most famous case, however,
came in 1979, when he was in private practice and thinking about
running for the Senate. A man named Ira Einhorn, better known as the
"Unicorn," had been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend; she
had been missing for a year and a half when police found her
mummified corpse squeezed into a trunk hidden in Einhorn's closet.
Einhorn was a celebrated leftist and is credited with helping found
Earth Day. He also had strong ties to Philadelphia elites a group
of people Specter was cultivating for his prospective Senate campaign
when he agreed to become Einhorn's lawyer.
That's important background not contained in Time's report, which
focused more on the details of Einhorn's grisly murder of Holly
Maddux and his 16-year flight from justice, which we should never
forget was facilitated by Specter (bold is mine):
Ira Einhorn .... (was) a man who had risen to fame during the late
1960s and early 1970s as a counterculture guru. Jerry Rubin and Abbie
Hoffman were friends, logically enough. But so was an unlikely
battalion of bluebloods, millionaires and corporate executives, many
of them so charmed by Einhorn's New Age vision that they stood by him
even after his arrest for a murder so grisly an entire city had gasped.
..... The story had been absolutely epic in Philadelphia, touching
off endless rounds of horror and disbelief. Ira Einhorn?
Peace-loving, earth-hugging Ira Einhorn? In the March 29, 1979,
Philadelphia Daily News, the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island
was nearly invisible under the mutant block letters at the top of Page One:
"HIPPIE GURU" HELD IN TRUNK SLAYING
..... with knowledge stolen from years of voracious reading, Einhorn
charmed many into believing the planet was warping into new frontiers
and only the Unicorn could lead them into the Age of Aquarius.
Whether it was politics, environment or computer science, "he was
three or four steps ahead of you at every turn," says Norris Gelman,
one of Einhorn's attorneys. As if hypnotized, the suits responded
with free lunches, grants, consulting contracts, four-figure speaking
fees. A local communications company hired Einhorn to mediate a
neighborhood power-plant dispute, then for years afterward sponsored
his space travel by mailing copies of his scribblings and those of
other "forward thinkers" to a growing list of international contacts.
Einhorn won a teaching fellowship at Harvard in the '70s. In the '60s
he had taught an alternative-education class at Penn, his alma mater,
and once reportedly broke out the joints, stripped naked and danced
in the classroom. Thirty years ago, not everyone was after an M.B.A.
Warts and all, "Ira charmed the city," says Lewis. And countless women.
..... He met Helen (Holly) Maddux in 1972 at La Terrasse, the bistro
where he held court but never picked up the tab. Maddux was described
as a woman of such mesmerizing elegance, everything around her would
fall away. "Michelle Pfeiffer has the same kind of fragile beauty,"
says Holly's sister Mary ....
..... (Maddux) met another man and in early autumn 1977 told Einhorn
it was over between them. He threatened by phone to toss her
belongings into the street, and she raced over to retrieve them. She
would not be seen again. Ira calmly told anyone who asked that she'd
gone to the nearby food co-op and simply never returned.
In Texas, Holly's parents Fred and Elizabeth Maddux became
suspicious. Holly had never gone more than a few weeks without
checking in. They called Philadelphia police, who made cursory checks
but had no reason to suspect foul play. Unsatisfied, the Madduxes
hired Bob Stevens, a retired FBI man working as a private detective
in Tyler. Stevens hooked up with another retired G-man, J.R. Pearce,
in Philadelphia. What they uncovered, in a year of spadework, was a
story for Hitchcock.
A Drexel student who lived in the apartment below Einhorn's recalled
a "blood-curdling scream" and heavy banging one night in the fall of
1977. In a neighborhood of frat houses and party hounds, the student
downstairs thought nothing of it. But the odor that followed within
weeks was impossible to ignore, as was the putrid, dark-brown liquid
that oozed down through the ceiling from Einhorn's apartment. The
tenant and his roommate tried unsuccessfully to clean it away, then
called the landlord, who called plumbers. Einhorn stubbornly refused
to let the workers into a padlocked closet just off his bedroom.
..... The private detectives turned it all over to police, and on
March 28, 1979, at 9 a.m., homicide detective (Michael) Chitwood
knocked on Einhorn's door. Once inside, he headed straight for the
locked closet. He pried it open with a crowbar and immediately
smelled a "faint decaying smell, like a dead animal." Next he sprang
the lock on the steamer trunk. The newspapers inside were dated
August and September 1977. Under them was Styrofoam packing material.
Chitwood scooped through it until he came to something he couldn't
identify at first, and then it was clear. A hand. A human hand. He
scooped some more, and as he did, Holly Maddux slowly emerged.
Einhorn stood by, impassive.
Then began the parade. One after another at Einhorn's bail hearing,
his supporters took the stand in his defense. A minister, a corporate
lawyer, a playwright, an economist, a telephone-company executive.
They couldn't imagine Einhorn's harming any living thing. Release of
murder defendants pending trial was unheard of, but Einhorn's
attorney was soon-to-be U.S. senator Arlen Specter, and bail was set
at a staggeringly low $40,000 only $4,000 of it needed to walk free.
It would appear that "cultivating Philadelphia's elites" was more
important to Specter than the prospect of a likely guilty man
disappearing into the ether and Holly Maddux's family not seeing
justice served for 16 years -- something, as Time notes at the full
article, Holly's parents never got to see before they died.
A senator switching parties from Democrat to Republican would see
such an episode repeated ad nauseam in the establishment press.
Specter hasn't thus far, and probably won't -- which is why it's
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.
Tom Blumer is president of a training and development company in
Mason, Ohio, and is a contributing editor to NewsBusters