Former U.S. Vice President and environmentalist Al Gore is silhouetted against an image of the earth during his talk about climate change in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, June 8, 2010. Gore presented his updated Asian version of “An Inconvenient Truth” to his mostly Filipino audience, which includes Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Once an environmentalist…
NBC Philadelphia reports that Earth Day co-founder Ira Einhorn, 79, has died in prison. Susan McNaughton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections, said Einhorn died early Friday in a western Pennsylvania state prison of natural causes.
In April 2011, NBC reported that environmental activist Ira Einhorn “was on stage hosting the first Earth Day event at the Fairmount Park in Philadelphia on April 22, 1970. Seven years later, police raided his closet and found the “composted” body of his ex-girlfriend inside a trunk.”
In the 1960s, Einhorn was an outspoken and engaging student at the University of Pennsylvania. He opposed the Vietnam war, in fact, he claimed to oppose all violence. Like many of his peers at that time, he was a hippie who supported flower power, peace, free love and, of course, the environment. He called himself “Unicorn” because his German-Jewish last name translates to “one horn.”
In 1977, his long-time girlfriend, Helen “Holly” Maddux, left him. NBC reported that Einhorn threatened to throw her possessions out onto the street if she didn’t come to collect them. On September 9, 1977, she returned to the apartment and was never seen again.
According to NBC, Einhorn told Philadelphia police “that she had gone out to the neighborhood co-op to buy some tofu and sprouts and never returned.”
It wasn’t until 18 months later that investigators searched Einhorn’s apartment after one of his neighbors complained that a reddish-brown, foul-smelling liquid was leaking from the ceiling directly below Einhorn’s bedroom closet. Inside the closet, police found Maddux’s beaten and partially mummified body stuffed into a trunk that had also been packed with Styrofoam, air fresheners and newspapers.
After his arrest, Einhorn jumped bail and spent decades evading authorities by hiding out in Ireland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and France. After 23 years, he was finally extradited to the United States from France and put on trial. Taking the stand in his own defense, Einhorn claimed that his ex-girlfriend had been killed by CIA agents who framed him for the crime because he knew too much about the agency’s paranormal military research. He was convicted of murdering Maddux and is currently serving a life sentence.
Following his conviction, District Attorney Lynne Abraham said: “Metaphorically speaking, Ira Einhorn and his Virgo moon are toast.”
NBC reports that after Maddox’s murder, Earth Day organizers chose to “distance themselves” from Einhorn. They cite the late Gaylord Nelson, “an environmental activist and former Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator who died in 2005, as Earth Day’s official founder and organizer.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Sen. Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day in the spring of 1970 as a way to bring national awareness to the fact that, at the time, there were no legal or regulatory mechanisms in place to protect the environment. About 20 million participants at various Earth Day events across the U.S. made Earth Day a success, and in December of 1970, Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues — the EPA.