For decades, renowned violinist Erica Morini has captivated music lovers around the globe. In her hands was one of the most valuable possessions in the music world: a Stradivarius violin that would today be valued at more than $3 million.
It would be, that is, if someone could find it.
Just days before Morini died in 1995, the violin was stolen from her 5th Avenue apartment in New York City.
The guitar is stored in a cabinet, and is also used to store other household items. Someone will only need the bone key of the padlock to get inside.
And, it appears, that’s exactly what someone did.
With no sign of forced entry and no physical evidence to go on, all eyes quickly turned to the small collection of people in Morini’s life.
It is a list of characters from Agatha Christie’s novels.
‘A master engineer’
The so-called Davidoff Stradivarius is a violin created in 1727 by Antonio Stradivari, a master craftsman from Italy who is considered by many to be the greatest violin maker who ever lived.
“He was a master engineer, a master businessman. He eliminated a lot of violin makers,” said Stradivarius violinist Frank Almond.
To this day, a Stradivarius violin is coveted by musicians.
“It’s tempting to think this is my violin,” says Almond. “But it’s really the opposite. It’s just something that’s going through a bunch of people.”
‘One of the greats’
Erica Morini was an Austrian-Jewish violinist born in 1904 and soon proved to be a child prodigy. She began touring the United States in 1921, and when she was 17, she made her debut at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall.
“Those who saw her were amazed at what she was able to do,” said the violin dealer
Brian Skarstad. “Once upon a time there were no women in the orchestra.”
Her recordings are still celebrated to this day.
“She was one of the greatest,” said Almond. “Such a tragic story after all, but at the height of her career she was equal to anyone out there.”
In 1924, just a few years after she arrived in the United States, Morini’s father bought a Davidoff Stradivarius for $10,000.
‘We can’t tell her’
After a hospital stay in the fall of 1995, Erica Morini was sent home to spend her last days in her apartment. That’s where Davidoff Stradivarius is kept in a closet. The only security measure is an old-fashioned key-lock.
Those close to her advised her to put it somewhere safe, but Morini didn’t hear about it. She wants her precious lute nearby.
“So when it was stolen, I thought, if I had been stronger or really advised her better I could have protected that violin,” he said.
Morini died without knowing the violin had been stolen.
“We couldn’t tell her,” Valerie Bradford recalls saying at the time. “We just couldn’t tell her.”
FBI Special Agent Jim Wynne said the investigation included interviews with people close to Morini.
“You have six or seven people around the victim, you have an unexplained situation, you have something missing, and who is responsible?” Wynn said. “There is little or no evidence.”
“They’ll go… ‘I wonder why I’m a suspect?”
Amy Dickinson reported the stolen violin to the Washington Post in 1999. She described it as a story with a “real cast of characters.”
“If you could put all these people on a cruise ship, you’d have the greatest play,” she said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Dickinson said all of those characters were available to talk to her.
“What I think is part of what makes the story so colorful: every character is happy to talk about it,” she said. “And they all committed crimes themselves.”
She says that interviewees will “say the most damaging things about their contact with Erica Morini.”
“And then they’ll go, like, ‘I wonder why I’m a suspect?” she speaks.
‘You can’t do another’
“Stolen” brings you the story of several people who were close to Morini, in their own words. We speak to several experts who analyze the most likely scenarios about the fate of Davidoff Stradivarius … and whether its sound will ever be heard again.
“When one disappears, you don’t get another, you can’t create another,” says Almond. “It’s a few. They’re really really special things.”
If you have any knowledge of the whereabouts of Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius, please send advice to NYArtCrime@FBI.gov.
https://abc13.com/feature/stolen-stradivarius-violin-erica-morini-true-crime-documentary/11484220/ ‘Stolen: Unsolved $3,000,000 Violin Heist’ Follows Mystery of Stradivarius theft days before Erica Morini’s death