By Anne Swardson, Washington Post Service
BORDEAUX - The memory of Holly Maddux guides her three sisters with a crystal-clear purity, and it led them here this week to confront the man convicted in absentia of her brutal slaying 21 years ago.
Mary Maddux, Elisabeth Maddux Hall and Meg Maddux Wakeman traveled from three corners of the United States to a court here to see if France would agree to extradite Ira Einhorn, 58, who jumped bail and fled to Europe in 1981.
In that, they were disappointed. The French court put off a decision until Feb. 18. But the sisters did get a chance to confront Mr. Einhorn, an anti-Vietnam war activist and self-styled 1960s counterculture guru who once was known as Philadelphia's first ''flower child.''
Mr. Einhorn was convicted in Pennsylvania courts in absentia of bludgeoning Miss Maddux to death in 1977 and storing her body in a steamer trunk in a closet of the Philadelphia apartment they shared. The body was not discovered for a year and a half. Mr. Einhorn was arrested in 1979 but insisted that the CIA had framed him because of research he was conducting into paranormal phenomena.
Freed on $40,000 bail - his defense lawyer was Arlen Specter, now a Republican senator from Pennsylvania - he fled to Europe. He lived under assumed names in Ireland, England and Sweden before moving to France with his Swedish wife, Annika Flodin. They lived in relative obscurity in a century-old converted mill near Bordeaux until his arrest in June 1997.
As Mr. Einhorn, his dark beard of two decades ago now a wispy white goatee, rounded a corner toward the courtroom in Bordeaux accompanied by his wife, his lawyers and a pack of television cameras, he passed within inches of Mrs. Hall as her sisters stood nearby. The sisters are driven by their memories of Holly, memories that have twice now carried them to France from their homes in Seattle, Boston and Fort Worth, Texas, to press for Mr. Einhorn's extradition.
They remember the agonizing 18 months during which Holly was missing, and they remember the look on their mother's face the day she learned that Holly's mummified body had been found.
The French judge, Claude Arrighi, gave no reason for delaying the extradition decision. The Maddux sisters, struggling to sound positive, said they hoped it meant that all information was being carefully considered.
''I would assume they have a good reason; I hope they have a good reason,'' said Mrs. Wakeman, 42. ''I'll be back. This is for my sister.''
Their activism was sparked by an unexpected setback. After Mr. Einhorn's arrest, they had assumed his extradition would be a routine matter, since France and the United States have a 93-year-old extradition treaty. They did not attend the first round of hearings.
So when the Bordeaux court denied extradition on Dec. 4, 1997, they were stunned. The court found that Mr. Einhorn's 1993 trial in Pennsylvania did not conform with French law, which grants a new trial to anyone convicted without being present. ''I could hardly get out of bed for three days,'' Mrs. Hall said. Then, said Mrs. Wakeman, ''Between December and January, we said, 'We have had enough.'''
The sisters helped motivate the Pennsylvania General Assembly to change state law, guaranteeing new trials to those convicted in absentia; the new extradition request being considered is based on that law. They helped persuade 35 members of Congress to write President Jacques Chirac of France. They became legal parties to the French case, enabling their lawyers to argue in court for extradition. They filed a wrongful-death civil suit in Philadelphia so that Mr. Einhorn cannot profit from any memoirs he might write, and they asked for damages. The one thing the sisters have not been able to do is raise awareness in France about the case.
Mr. Einhorn, who is free but under police supervision, remains a welcome resident of Champagne-Mouton, the village in which he lives. An attempt by the sisters to explain their case in a town hall meeting there was canceled when it was interpreted by residents as a mock trial of Mr. Einhorn [actually it was the procureur at Angouleme who brought pressure on his counterparts at Bordeaux who then passed it on to the French Justice Ministry that in turn contacted the US Embassy which then sent it to the US Justice Dept. which chewed out the District Attorney's office in Philadelphia]. ''He doesn't have the face of an assassin, though that's just a personal impression,'' said Champagne-Mouton's mayor, Jack Jouaron, in a sympathetic French television documentary. ''We'd like to keep him, and we'd like him to live here in peace.''
The producer of the documentary, shown on Canal Plus television, said Mr. Einhorn had found ''a new community'' in the village. The program, like much other French reporting of the case, treated the conflict as one of the United States attempting to impose its values on France, of the U.S. Justice Department pitted against a small court in Bordeaux.
- It did not mention that Holly Maddux was murdered by seven forceful blows to the head, that she had been seen with bruises before she ended her relationship with Mr. Einhorn, that the trunk containing her body had been in Mr. Einhorn's apartment for a year and a half until neighbors complained about the odor and leaking fluids, and that he had told Holly's parents she had gone shopping and never come back.
Mr. Einhorn has maintained his innocence over the years. ''I've been treated terribly,'' he said on the Canal Plus program. ''The whole system has turned against me.''
Americans are not satisfied with their lives, he said. ''They take it out on me, the Iraqis, the Sudanese,'' he said. ''They'd take it out on the French if they could. It's sad, because most people in America are manipulated by the media.
He said that, in France, ''human rights exist.''
''They were created here,'' he said. ''The idea is alive here.''
Holly Maddux's three sisters have been careful to say, in dozens of media interviews, that this case is not about France versus the United States. The issue is whether the French court can be satisfied that Mr. Einhorn will be granted a new trial in Pennsylvania or whether, as Mr. Einhorn's lawyer maintains, that decision will be at the sole discretion of the judge in the case and thus impossible to predict.
The ruling in February by the Bordeaux court can be appealed by either side to France's highest court.
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