Bluegrass crime stories: Kentucky girl’s killer was never found

Published 10:07 am Monday, October 9, 2023

By John Reitman

Morgan Violi and a friend were walking home from a playground to her mother’s Bowling Green apartment on a hot summer night 26 years ago when a man emerged from a red Chevrolet van, dragged the 7-year-old into the vehicle and sped off, never to be seen again.

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That was July 24, 1996. Three months later, on Oct. 21, a body, later determined to be Violi’s was found 40 miles south of Bowling Green near an old barn in north-central Tennessee. The day after Violi went missing, a white Ford van was seen parked for four hours near the barn where her body was found.

More than 25 years later, the FBI is still looking for the girl’s killer and any possible clues into the suspect’s identity or wherabouts.

Violi’s friend and another onlooker witnessed the abduction. They described the suspect as a 6-foot tall white male with a beard and collar-length brown hair, driving a burgundy or red van with gold trim and a Kentucky license plate.

Bowling Green Police and the FBI looked first at the girl’s parents, who had been separated for three years and finalized their divorce the day of the abduction. Violi’s father, Glen, was a no-show for the divorce hearing and police investigated him for more than two years. In that time, he failed multiple polygraph examinations, but eventually was dismissed as a suspect.

An accomplished artist, the girl’s father drew a sketch of the suspect for police based on witness accounts. Many thought Glen Violi had sketched himself.

The van, which was reported stolen from Dayton, Ohio on July 23, 1996, was found a few days later on July 26 at a gas station in Franklin, Tennessee. The FBI reported at the time that there was enough evidence in the van to link it to the girl’s abduction.

Leads in the case came in from every direction, including one from a women who said she saw Violi and her abductor in a restaurant in Ohio. FBI chased down the leads, but all turned out to be false alarms.

No one has ever been arrested in connection with Morgan Violi’s abduction and murder. The FBI is still seeking information on the burgundy and white van, and the case remains at the top of the Most Wanted list in the Louisville office. If you have information regarding this case, please call the FBI in Bowling Green at (270) 745–8662.