BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Morgan Jade Violi was born on Nov. 3, 1988, in Kentucky to Glen and Stacey Violi. She has two older half-sisters, Heather Prewitt Coleman and Nikki Prewitt Britt. Heather and Nikki’s biological father died, and Glen raised the girls as his own.
Morgan’s parents separated in 1993. She resided at the Colony Apartments complex off Shive Lane with her mother and sisters. Her mother has described the young girl as “beautiful, friendly, smart” and “always smiling.”
July 24, 1996, was a typical warm summer’s day and perfect for playing outside, with temperatures in the 80s. Morgan, 7, and a friend headed to the apartment complex’s playground. Morgan’s sisters were there, and Heather told her to go put shoes on.
At 12:36 p.m., Morgan and her friend were walking in the parking lot toward her apartment when a man grabbed Morgan and threw her into a burgundy or red Chevrolet van.
The man had grabbed the friend first but took Morgan instead. Heather heard Morgan scream and ran towards her sister. She saw a man sitting in a van, and he smiled at her. Heather noticed Morgan’s friend running between the apartment buildings but thought the girls were playing. However, the friend and an adult had witnessed the abduction, and the police were called.
Bowling Police Department and the FBI began the search and investigation. Authorities started receiving one tip every 10 – 15 minutes. On Friday, July 26, they dispatched teams, each one consisting of a city police officer and an FBI agent, to check into more than 100 tips that quickly poured in. Additionally, police postponed more than 200 felony investigations so officers could focus on Morgan’s kidnapping.
Police checked local motels and stopped hundreds of similar vans in hopes of rescuing the little girl but had zero luck. Meanwhile, the community rallied for the family, and nearly 400 people attended a candlelight vigil.
The FBI released a sketch of the abductor, but witness statements varied. Bowling Green police said the abductor was a 6-foot tall white male with a beard and collar-length brown hair. Witnesses also described him as having short blond hair or short curly brown hair. He wore a white T-shirt and blue jeans and was in his 20s or middle-aged. The man drove a burgundy or red van that possibly had gold trim and a Kentucky license plate.
Dawn Kurth worked as a waitress at an Applebee’s restaurant in Fairview Park, Ohio, near Cleveland. Kurth saw a couple having dinner with a little girl who matched Morgan’s description. The man with the child sort of resembled the man in the sketch. The woman bore heavy makeup and a wig.
Kurth asked the little girl’s name and what grade she was in at school. The little girl replied that she was seven years old and in the third grade. Morgan was in the third grade.
She then asked what school the girl attended, but the woman would not let the girl respond and quickly changed the subject.
Another employee overheard the woman call the girl “Morgan.”
Kurth was positive the child was Morgan Violi, so she called several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI office in Louisville.
At a news conference on Monday, Oct. 21, 1996, police announced the remains of a young girl between 6 and 11 were discovered in Tennessee that the FBI believed was Morgan Violi.
About noon the day before, a woman walking on her property between Springfield and White House stumbled upon the remains near an old barn. Springfield is about 15 miles from the Kentucky-Tennessee border and 40 miles from Bowling Green.
Authorities found dark brown hair and a yellow barrette with the remains. Morgan was wearing a white shirt, white shorts with rainbow stripes, pink “jelly” shoes, and a yellow barrette in her hair. Police found no other items at the scene.
An autopsy concluded the manner of death as a homicide, but police did not release further details.
Police tested the hair and it was consistent with Morgan’s. However, identification was difficult due to decomposition and no dental records for Morgan.
University of Tennessee Professor Murray Marks, a forensic pathologist, teamed up with a Knoxville digital photography company and put video footage of Morgan’s skull into separate computer files after scanning her picture.
Marks then set the teeth as guide marks and rotated the skull until the head’s tilt matched the angle in the picture. If the teeth fit, a dentist would make the final determination.
A day or two later, the FBI announced the remains belonged to Morgan Violi. Marks said, “The teeth were a perfect match. They fit like a glove.”
Morgan’s parents’ divorce hearing was at 10:30 a.m. on the morning of her abduction. They had previously agreed Stacey Violi would be the custodial parent. However, Glen Violi never showed up in court. The judge awarded Stacey custody of Morgan and her two sisters and Glen custody every other weekend. He later claimed he did not know about the hearing and went to work. His lawyer said he did not need to be there because he and his wife settled the custody arrangement.
Glen said he started work around 6:30 a.m. on July 24 and led a six-man construction crew. The group worked at an old farmhouse in Franklin, near the Tennessee state line about 19 miles south of Bowling Green.
One of the workers said the group left the work site around 11 a.m. when they took their lunch break. He dropped the workers off, paid some bills, stopped by the Brass Box bridal store to get fitted for a tuxedo for a friend’s wedding, and then bought his wife some flowers because “I thought we were really getting somewhere. I thought our marriage was working,” Glen said in 1997.
After running errands, Glen went to his wife and daughters’ apartment around 12:50 p.m. to deliver the flowers and learned of Morgan’s abduction.
Glen, a talented artist, sketched a man based on witness descriptions given to him. Some people thought the sketch looked like him.
Glen told the media the FBI made him take several polygraph tests, and he failed each one. However, he maintained his innocence in his daughter’s abduction and subsequent murder. According to him, the FBI thought he had hired someone to kill his daughter.
Morgan’s mother initially did not believe he kidnapped Morgan, but that changed when the girl’s body was found, and the two stopped communicating. Stacey refused to let him see Heather and Nikki, according to Glen Violi. However, she no longer believes he had anything to do with Morgan’s murder.
Detectives investigated Glen for two years until July 1998, near the second anniversary of the abduction. Articles from 1996 and 1998 reported investigators never named him a suspect; however, newer reports state otherwise.
FBI Special Agent Dick Glenn was assigned to Morgan’s case in 1996.
In 2016, Glenn told WBKO: “The van used in the abduction was stolen from a residence in Dayton, Ohio the day before the abduction, and then it was abandoned at a truck stop in Franklin, Tennessee shortly thereafter. We recovered it 3 days later, 3 days after the abduction, but we weren’t able to forensically tie that van to the abduction until March of the following year.” Investigators recovered the 1978 van from the Union 76 truck stop.
According to Robertson County Sheriff’s Office website, “A second vehicle, a 1979 or older white Ford Van with a slatted trailer-door type window on the side was seen parked by the old barn on North Swift Road at Webster Road in Robertson County on July 25th, 1996. This vehicle was at this location for about 4 hours. This location is about 100 feet from where the remains of Morgan Violi were found on October 20th, 1996.” The barn is no longer there.
No one has ever been arrested in connection with Morgan Violi’s abduction and murder.
Glen Violi remarried and had another daughter named Charlotte Morgan. Stacey Violi also remarried and is now Stacey Pulliam. Morgan’s sisters are married with children of their own. Her family still resides in the Bowling Green area.
The FBI is still seeking information on the burgundy and white van. If you have information regarding this case, please call the FBI in Bowling Green at (270) 745-8662.
Similar Cases Worth Mentioning
One day after Morgan Violi’s abduction, three-year-old Lucy Rebecca Meadows, 3, vanished without a trace while shopping with her mother, Yong Meadows, in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, 50-60 miles south of Bowling Green.
Police initially treated her disappearance as an abduction, with a possible connection to Morgan’s case, until Lucy’s mother gave conflicting statements and stopped cooperating with authorities. Investigators do not believe her case is related to Morgan’s.
In November 2015, Timothy Madden, 38, raped and murdered Gabbi Doolin, 7, in Scottsville, 25 miles southeast of Bowling Green. Gabbi was watching her brother play football and cheering him on when Madden lured her away.
When her parents realized she was missing, her mother called the police at 7:40 p.m. Twenty-five minutes later, authorities found Gabbi’s body in a small pond behind the football field. She had died from manual strangulation and drowning.
Madden went to school with Gabbi’s father, but authorities were unsure how well they knew one another.
Madden would have been 19 years old in 1996. Police have not connected Gabbi and Morgan’s murders, and Madden has never admitted to killing Morgan.
Messenger-Inquirer/Park City Daily News/Robertson County Sheriff’s Department/Hardin County Detention Center
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
OMG, I don’t know how many times I typed A-V-I-O-L-I instead of VIOLI while writing this post. 🤦♀️ If you happen to catch it, please let me know. No idea why I did that, but my brain works in mysterious ways. I guess it could be worse — I could have written ravioli. 😂
It would be easy for me to say that Violi hired someone to kill his daughter in retaliation for the divorce, but I honestly do not think he was involved.
Police investigated him for two years, so I would think that they would have found something tying him to the crime if he had hired someone.
I feel that whoever killed Morgan might have done this before (and after) and was familiar with the area between Bowling Green and Springfield, Tennessee. So the killer was probably a local resident and not someone merely passing through the area. Someone in the Bowling Green area knows exactly what happened to Morgan. I highly doubt her killer or killers kept quiet for almost 25 years without telling a single soul.
Heather’s sister said in 2016 that she believed two men were involved, and I agree — one to drive the van, the other to grab the victim. That would explain the different sketches and ages of the kidnapper. It also explains why there were two vans seen at the barn.
In my opinion, Madden slightly resembles the 1996 sketches. Scottsville is close to both Bowling Green and the site where Morgan’s remains were found. Madden most likely was familiar with the areas, having lived in Scottsville his entire life. However, I’m still not convinced it was him, but whoever killed her did not act alone.
The 2020 sketch was based on one eyewitness account if I remember correctly. I only saw this new sketch in a 2020 article, and the same with the van sketch and barn pic.