by Stacey Case
I’m a short film maker. On the strength of one of my Super 8 films I was hired as a cameraman for a documentary entitled Peace, Love & Murder–The Search For Ira Einhorn, that would be airing on A&E’s Investigative Reports. I was sent by myself to France for a month, armed with my wits and a digital video camera, to shoot footage of Ira Einhorn, a 60’s hippie leader from Philadelphia(4), who killed his girlfriend Holly Maddux (2,3) in 1977 and has been hiding in the south of France ever since.
I spent my first week in Paris at a cheap hotel in the 9th Arrondisement. I spent my days walking around the city, looking for shots to film. Most evenings, too. Before I knew it, I was comfortable in my work. I must admit, I was terrified for the first three days. From lo-tech Super8 to hi-tech digital video. I’d never done anything like this before! All part of the learning process, I guess. I got to know that camera inside out. One of the things that I had to shoot lots of were police cars. I had been instructed to film as many as possible, preferably with sirens wailing. I got pretty good at hearing them in the distance and figuring out which way they would be going, and what the best trajectory would be for me to meet up and film them. Now I know where the term ‘ambulance chaser’ comes from.
After an international search that lasted nearly twenty years, convicted murderer Ira Einhorn(5) was found hiding out in the Charente region of France, in June 1997. It was a fluke that Ira was even found. His Swedish wife Annika Flodin had filed for a new driver’s license and her name triggered a red flag. After his capture, Ira spent six months in a prison in Gradignan outside Bordeaux, waiting to be extradited back to the US. At his extradition hearing, the presiding judge refused to send Ira back to America. Why? Because in 1993, Ira was tried in absentia in Philadelphia and found guilty of Holly’s murder. Under France’s human rights accord, anyone convicted of a crime in absentia cannot be extradited unless they are given a new trial. Since Philly had already convicted him, the District Attorney there refused Ira a new trial, so France let Ira go.
I was shooting B-roll footage for the documentary. This is footage, usually silent or accompanied by natural sound, shot to accompany interviews. To make my trip a bit more fun for myself, I had brought one of my Super8 Cameras and six rolls of black and white film, three minutes shooting time on each. I shot some excellent footage of the gears and pistons that send the Eiffel Tower’s(11) elevators up and down. If you are ever in France, check them out. They are on the second level, covered by a clear plexiglass dome. I was in Angouleme for the Festival du Bande Dessinee, a monster comic book festival held once a year. Thousands upon thousands of comics and zines from around the world. It was great! I also met some interesting people in my travels. This one guy worked in an info booth at the Bordeaux train station. He told me that the next train to where I was going wouldn’t be leaving for another three hours, so he may as well close up the info booth and take me out for beers, seeing as how I’m Canadian and all (he saw the Canadian flag on the sleeve of my coat — I found this ploy worked to my advantage many times). He regaled me the rest of the afternoon with stories of political zealots, French ministers who were Nazi collaborators, and how Algerians are bombing the Metro.
Ira Einhorn lives in a 160 year-old stone house in a small (pop. 1000) village called Champagne Mouton(9). He may, for all intents and purposes, be a free man, but to me he sure didn’t look it. There were two other film crews while I was there, all working on the same story. I became friends with Dave from NBC (thanks for the lift back to Paris!). The two of us would stake out the police station (or ‘gendarmerie’), trying to catch a glimpse of Ira, as he had to sign in there twice a week due to his reputation as a fugitive. Filming Ira entering or leaving the cop shop was Number One on my shot list. My ‘money shot.’
I had a room in the only hotel in Champagne Mouton, and every morning at 7 am I would walk 4 kilometres to set up my digital camera at the top of a hill directly across from Ira’s house. I’m not joking. I had to get all kinds of cutaway shots, zooming in to all of the different windows and doors(10). I wasn’t to approach Ira under any circumstances, like to try and talk to him or interview him or anything. That is NOT what I was there for. If I caught him at a window, that was okay.
One Saturday morning I decided to get up REALLY early and sneak into his backyard to get some shots. This wasn’t on my shot list, but what the hell. I got some great footage (which was used in the doc) and then, just because I felt like it, I took all of Ira’s green clothespins off of the clothesline as a memento. That must have fucked him up.
I turned thirty in Angouleme. Up until then I had been acting like a total pro. No booze, no distractions, just work. Well, no more. Time to cut loose! I found a cool bar and proceeded to get whaled. Four hours later all of the bar patrons were singing ‘Happy Birthday.’ They even bought me a present — a small chunk of hash. The bartender there introduced me to a pile of excellent French punk and stuff: Trust (pronounced Troost), Les Ritas Mitsouko, and a wicked band called Edgar De L’Est. They have a song called New York that rips. When I was left Angouleme the next day I made a point of finding a record store and buying these three discs.
Some of the shots on my list included footage of the courthouse where Ira had had his extradition hearing. Up until this point I had been continually harassed by the police, who were determined to stop me from filming their beloved police vehicles and such. I was not allowed to film the American embassy, even from across the street. I got lucky at the courthouse. It seems the info-booth guy that I had shared some drinks with hadn’t been shitting me about French ministers being Nazi collaborators. One was on trial in the same courthouse that Ira had been in! The building was closed to everyone except the press. Seizing the opportunity, I approached the guard at the doorway, showed the Canadian flag on the sleeve of my coat, and in halting French explained that I was in France covering the trial for a big Canadian magazine called Rivet. He let me in. I asked the next guard, “If I was going to be extradited, what courtroom would I be in?” He pointed it out, I turned my DV camera on, walked across to said room, opened the door, strolled in, and sat down, just like Ira must have when he entered the courtroom. This impromptu footage was used in the documentary exactly as I had shot it. The security guard that I had questioned had seen what I had done, followed me in to the room, and promptly kicked me out of the building. Lucky for me, he didn’t take my video tape!
The reason that the law in Philadelphia was so adamant about apprehending Ira was due to the shocking nature of the crime. Holly Maddux, a 27 year-old blonde Texan beauty, had been missing for 18 months(1). She and Ira had been lovers for five years. By all accounts their relationship had been a tumultuous one. Her family hated him, this greasy, unkempt hippie who seemed to have some kind of hold over their daughter, but what could they do? Well, for one thing, when Holly went missing, they figured that Ira had something to do with it. He had always rubbed them the wrong way. When they questioned Ira about Holly’s whereabouts, Ira had told them that Holly was a free spirit, and that she had just left one night, “to find herself.” This wasn’t like Holly. She was a free spirit, yes, but she always kept in touch with her parents and siblings back in Texas. The Maddux family hired a private detective. It was this man’s tireless legwork over the next 18 months that eventually led to the FBI’s grisly discovery: Holly Maddux had never left Ira Einhorn’s apartment. Her mummified body was found in a locked trunk in a closet on Ira’s back porch(6). Her head had been smashed in. When Ira was confronted with the contents of the trunk, he replied, “You found what you found.” Released on $4000 bail, Ira immediately fled the country, first hiding in Dublin, and then England and Sweden, where he met his future wife, Annika, and finally France.
So was I scared when I was in France, filming this guy? Nah, I never saw him, really. He never left his house. His wife goes out to do the shopping and pick up mail at the post office. I must have driven her crazy, filming her leaving the house, buying flowers at a flower shop in town, making purchases from an open air market held twice a week right outside of my hotel. Ira stayed indoors, presumably working on his computer. He has been working on books proclaiming his innocence. So far he has not had any luck finding a publisher. Hey, you want to hear something crazy? This is Ira’s explanation of Holly’s murder: he was framed. As the founder of Earth Day(7), a friend to other counterculture radicals like Abbie Hoffman(8), and as an activist in anti-nuke demonstrations and the like, Ira Einhorn figures that the government, acting under the jurisdiction of the FBI or the CIA, he doesn’t know which, killed Holly Maddux, put her in a trunk in his apartment, and tried to frame him to shut him up. Care to send him an email and tell him what you think? User886114 @aol.com. Mention that Rivet sent you, and that you know who stole all of his green clothespins. By the way, I got my money shot(12) of Ira entering and exiting the police station in Champagne Mouton, on the last day that I was there! Whew!
POSTSCRIPT: The State of Pennsylvania changed the law in the Fall of 1998 so that in circumstances like Ira’s, criminals to be extradited will now be given a new trial if they have been previously convicted in absentia. This applies retroactively, hence to Ira’s case as well. In light of this new ruling, France has had a change of heart: they have agreed to extradite Ira Einhorn back to Philadelphia, where he is sure to be convicted of Holly Maddux’s murder again.
Punk Rocker Stalks Killer Hippie for A&E