The Phantom of the Opera murder at the Met

HelenhagnesIt happened during a performance of the Berlin Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House on July 23, 1980.

Helen Hagnes, a gifted 31-year-old violinist (left), left her instrument on her chair in the orchestra pit during an intermission at about 9:30 pm.

When the performance resumed, Hagnes’ seat was still empty. After the show, police were called in.

Following an all-night search, Hagnes’ naked body was found inside a six-story air shaft. She’d been tied up, gagged, and thrown from the roof.

As brutal as the crime was, it didn’t take police long to solve what had been dubbed the “Phantom of the Opera” murder.

MetoperahouseoutsideFirst, there was the partial palm print found on the roof. And because the knots used to bind her limbs were the same knots used by stagehands, investigators figured the killer was employed by Lincoln Center and knew the opera house’s layout.

That led police to question a 21-year-old stagehand named Craig Crimmins. Eventually, Crimmins confessed: He told cops that he was drunk when he encountered Hagnes in an elevator.

He tried to rape her in a stairwell, and when she resisted, he forced her to the roof and kicked her into the air shaft.”Something snapped in my brain,” he told a judge in 1981, who sentenced him to 20 years to life.

[Top photo: New York Times. Bottom photo: Blehgoaway]

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8 Responses to “The Phantom of the Opera murder at the Met”

  1. Lorraine Says:

    There is an excellent book about this case, “Murder At The Met”, written in 1984 by David Black. The reviews on Amazon give it more justice than I can.

  2. Ellen Levitt Says:

    I remember this story….I was in high school at the time, and it creeped me out.

  3. Annelise Says:

    I read this post and then fell into an Internet black hole, reading all I could on the story. Such a sad case.

  4. Neil Says:

    I recently watched a law&order rerun ( think it was criminal intent) that had an episode similar to this..

  5. Wayne Heppner Says:

    As if it were yesterday I can still see the smiles and hear the bubbly voice of a special person from my high school day. There remains many wonderful memories of those days and from time to time, over the years I would think of Helen, remembering several occasions when she played at school assemblies and how I was struck with awe at the change that came over her when she ceased to be Helen, my classmate, and became Helen the Violinist. The last time I saw Helen was on graduation night, she going on to her musical calling and I ending up in a small wilderness town. To pass the long winter evenings I did a lot of reading, randomly gathering books from the towns small library and taking them home to discover what was within the covers. Upon opening one such book I had so gathered I was stunned to discover it was about Helen and after reading the opening page I could not read on. Several years later I hesitantly read the book …. with a great sorrow.

  6. joe Says:

    I remember it like it was yesters\day .I’m glad he’s still behind bars,hope he stays there.She was very talented ,it’s too bad her life was cut short by this murderer.

  7. Sheila Says:

    It’s years later I know. I only saw in UK the hell this poor lady went through. I want her husband to know I have nightmares after programme and I’m just a UK resident. God bless her husband..
    Tell him, he can recover….i know its years ago,.
    Thank u
    She of uk

  8. SavageGrace Says:

    Crimmins was paroled August 12, 2021 according to the NYS Department of Corrections website.

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