March 08, 1999 12:00 PM

Meg Wakeman was waiting by the phone in her Seattle home when it rang at 12:59 a.m. She was expecting bad news, but her sister Buffy Hall, calling from France, sounded elated. “Meg, they’re granting our request for extradition,” Hall told her. “They’re going to send him back.”

It was a rare moment of sweet relief in their 22-year search for justice: Ira Einhorn, the self-styled counterculture guru who they believe murdered their sister Holly Maddux in 1977—and who eluded capture for two decades before his arrest in Champagne-Mouton, a remote village 240 miles southwest of Paris, in 1997—had been cleared for extradition to the United States, where he would face a new trial. Einhorn, 58, appealed the ruling, starting a process that could take months. In the meantime, he is free to live in the converted millhouse he shares with his Swedish wife, Annika Flodin. “We’d like to see him in cuffs and on a plane tomorrow,” says Holly’s brother John Maddux. “But finally we have a reason to be optimistic. He’s boxed in now.”

Yet Einhorn has proved slippery in the past. A charismatic antiwar activist, he was arrested after police discovered the decayed body of Holly Maddux, his former girlfriend, stuffed in a steamer trunk in his Philadelphia apartment. But Einhorn skipped bail and eluded authorities chasing him in Europe. He was tried in absentia and sentenced to life by a Philadelphia court in 1993, precisely why judges in France—which does not recognize such trials—refused to extradite him in 1997. A new Pennsylvania law granting Einhorn the right to a new trial cleared the way for his extradition.

Buffy Hall, who with her sister Mary Maddux was in the Bordeaux courtroom for the ruling, fears that he will flee again. “As soon as things begin to look bad,” she says, “he’ll run.” Wakeman, however, is confident that Einhorn, still claiming he was framed by unidentified conspirators, will one day be shipped home. And when he is, she vows, hers will be one of the first faces he sees as he gets off the plane. “What I want,” says Wakeman, “is for him to see Holly in me.”

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