For a long time, Ira Einhorn was as elusive as the mythical creature whose name he adopted.

Two decades ago, the man called the Unicorn fled the United States while awaiting trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Helen "Holly" Maddux, shocking the powerful benefactors who had posted bail.

A well-known 1960s activist and later a New Age guru, Einhorn lived in Europe under assumed names and kept one step ahead of authorities until his arrest in southern France in 1997.

His four-year legal battle ended Thursday, when French authorities plucked the 61-year-old fugitive from his country cottage and put him on a plane to Philadelphia.

"This has all of the elements of a thriller. It has sex and love and money and murder and international chases and false identities and false leads and a long history," said District Attorney Lynne Abraham, whose office had vigorously pursued Einhorn's extradition.

Now in one of Pennsylvania's toughest prisons, inmate ES6859 finds himself alone, scorned, with "fury in his heart" toward the U.S. judicial system, says his Swedish wife. He's more than 3,500 miles away from Champagne-Mouton, France, with little hope of returning to his life there.

"He's dug himself a pretty deep hole I don't think he can dig out of," said Elizabeth "Buffy" Hall, Maddux's sister.

Einhorn first rose to prominence in the 1960s and early 1970s as an anti-war activist, environmentalist and free-love proponent who hobnobbed with counterculture icons such as Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. A long-haired eccentric, Einhorn sometimes answered his door naked and smelled "like a hoagie with onions," according to a friend.

A friend dubbed him the Unicorn — the English translation of Einhorn's German last name.

Einhorn later became a New Age futurist and expert on the paranormal. He developed an international network of intellectuals, corporate sponsors and wealthy benefactors; Bell Telephone listed him as a company consultant.

"I wanted to apprentice myself after him," said Randy Dalton, 52, a Philadelphia artist who lived in Einhorn's neighborhood. "He was working on important issues. But I didn't know him well enough to know how obnoxious he was."

Known as a serial womanizer, Einhorn was instantly attracted to Maddux when they met in October 1972. A former cheerleader from Tyler, Texas, she was a smart, enigmatic beauty who had moved to Philadelphia in 1965 to attend Bryn Mawr College.

Within two weeks of their chance encounter at a restaurant, she moved into his small apartment. But friends say Maddux quickly saw another side of Einhorn — domineering, abusive, contemptuous.

Their stormy relationship ended five years later with her death at age 30.

Maddux had been trying to break off the relationship when Einhorn summoned her to Philadelphia from Fire Island, N.Y. She disappeared a day later.

For the next several months, police regarded Maddux's disappearance as a missing persons case and did not pursue a vigorous investigation. Frustrated, Fred and Elizabeth Maddux hired retired FBI agents to look for their daughter.

Tenants in the apartment directly below Einhorn's then reported a horrible stench and a brown stain in the ceiling.

On March 28, 1979, 18 months after Maddux disappeared, a homicide detective found her mummified body stuffed in a trunk in the couple's apartment. The coroner said Maddux's skull was crushed by at least six blows.

"You found what you found," Einhorn told the detective who opened the trunk.

Einhorn was arrested and charged with murder. He professed innocence, claiming a frame-up by the CIA and KGB. With the help of his attorney, Arlen Specter, now a U.S. senator, and influential friends who vouched for his character, Einhorn was released on $40,000 bail.

Einhorn fled in January 1981, weeks before his trial was to begin.

He lived in England, Ireland and Sweden before moving into a converted mill in the rural Bordeaux region of France with his girlfriend, Annika Flodin, whom he later married. Einhorn lived under an assumed name, Eugene Mallon, and posed as a reclusive English writer.

Meanwhile, a Philadelphia jury had convicted Einhorn in absentia and sentenced him to life in prison in 1993.

Even after French authorities caught up to Einhorn in 1997, he continued to live the life of a debauched country gentleman — drinking wine, posing naked in his yard for Esquire magazine — while his lawyers argued his case.

On July 12, having exhausted nearly all appeals, Einhorn slit his throat as a "political protest." He was not seriously hurt, and invited a TV news crew into his house for an interview while blood oozed from his neck.

On Thursday, French police took Einhorn from his stone cottage to Paris in a gray Peugeot. From there he took a chartered jet to Philadelphia. The plane touched down at 4 a.m. Friday, and the Unicorn stepped foot on U.S. soil for the first time in two decades.

This time, as a convicted killer.

"I don't have any sympathy for him," said Hall. "He thought he was smarter than everyone else and that he could get away with it."