Investigation Discovery’s ‘Murder In The Big Apple: Murder at the Met’ features the ensuing murder investigation after the gifted violinist Helen Mintiks was found dead while performing. The incident happened in the interval of her performance at the famous Metropolitan Opera House in New York in July 1980. The investigators had to interview around 100 people before they finally made a breakthrough in this high-profile homicide. If you want to learn more about the case, here’s what we know.
How Did Helen Mintiks Die?
Helen Karen Hagnes Mintiks was born on February 11, 1949, to Mauritz Edward Hagnes and Heidi Wilhelmma Hagnes in Vancouver, British Columbia. She was the youngest of three sisters raised on a poultry farm in Aldergrove, British Columbia, where her Swedish parents had emigrated from Finland. In an interview, Helen’s friend, Judith Olsen, recounted, “She was friendly, she talked to everyone, she was constantly making cheesecakes for her friends … a world-class giggler. … I also saw the serious side.”
Judith added, “She was hooked on music, and that was going to be her life.” She began studying violin at age eight and traveled weekly with her parents around 76 miles to Vancouver to study violin with Douglas Stewart. Judith affirmed, “Helen told me her father used to drive her 40 miles in his truck to take violin lessons in Vancouver.” While still a teenager, Helen served as a Vancouver Junior Philharmonic Concertmaster and a Soloist with the Seattle Symphony. She left Canada at 19 to study at the renowned Julliard School in Manhattan, eventually completing her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees there.
Helen studied and performed in Italy and Switzerland before returning to New York in 1975 when the celebrated violinist Nathan Milstein agreed to take her on as a student. She became established as a very talented and dedicated violinist who worked freelance and was in the first-call category. While working as a counselor one summer at a camp near Montreal, Helen met sculptor Janis Mintiks, whom she married in 1976.
Hence, it was shocking when the 31-year-old was murdered while performing with the Berlin Ballet at the famed Metropolitan Opera House in New York on July 23, 1980. According to reports, Helen had left her chair to stretch her legs during the interval and never returned. The police found her naked body inside a ventilation shaft on the third floor at 8:30 AM the following morning. Moreover, the victim’s hands were bound, her mouth gagged, and the autopsy report concluded she died from severe head trauma caused by her fall.
Who Killed Helen Mintiks?
The Berlin Ballet was in New York with guest artists Galina Panov, Valery Panov, and Rudolf Nureyev. They were performing at the Metropolitan Opera House on July 23, 1980. After the first act, the musicians had a long interval, with most performers heading to the canteen, the dressing room, or hanging out in the backstage labyrinth during the break. However, Helen was not back like her colleagues about 45 minutes later at 9:30 PM to resume the performance.
The violinist’s co-workers were worried when they could not spot her even after the performance concluded. Though there might have been a slim chance of her returning home during a concert, Helen would never leave her expensive violin behind. Some of her friends contacted the police, and the officers interviewed Janis Mintiks to learn he had been waiting for his spouse at the Met to walk back home together. When she did not show up, he concluded he might have missed her in the crowd and returned to their house to find she had not returned.
Soon, the police searched Helen’s locker to find the street clothes she had previously worn were still present. The investigators hypothesized she was still in the building and started combing the opera house. Nevertheless, it was a particularly daunting job, given all the floors seemed like massive labyrinths. According to one officer, the stagehands warned them not to wander everywhere since they might take a wrong turn and get lost. The authorities eventually found the violinist’s body when one of the investigators peered down a shaft from the roof.
Eventually, the medical examiner concluded Helen had not been sexually assaulted, and the officers found a palm print on a pipe near the corpse. Based on the time of the death and the complex building design, they were sure the perpetrator was familiar with the Metropolitan Opera House. The detectives interviewed hundreds of people backstage and showed them the victim’s photos until Laura Cameron Cutler, a dancer with the Berlin Ballet, came up with a breakthrough.
Laura said, “I had seen her the night before. During the recorded music ballet, I was waiting for an elevator near the stage, and there was this woman and a man. They came and started waiting for the elevator too, and she spoke to me, and that was Helen … the elevator went down to the basement first, and I got off the elevator, and they went on.”
Laura stated she remembered Helen asking this man dressed in workman clothes about a famous Russian dancer performing that night. However, the alleged suspect intentionally lied to her, telling her the dancer was on the fourth floor when all performers were on the stage level. Based on the suspect’s clothes and the stagehand-like knots used to tie Helen, the police were confident he was a stagehand. Their apprehensions were confirmed when a composite sketch of the man matched a stagehand — Craig S. Crimmins.
Where is Craig Crimmins Now?
According to reports, Craig was increasingly nervous during the police interview, and his fingerprints matched the palm print found near Helen’s body. The detectives learned he was absent during the cues, and his co-workers had to look for him. The police even caught one of Craig’s colleagues lying to cover for him, and the latter eventually confessed to the murder after multiple rounds of interrogation. He admitted he was enraged when Helen turned down his romantic advancements in the elevator.
A furious Craig confessed to striking Helen with a hammer before chasing her till she was trapped. When his attempt to have sex with her proved unsuccessful, the 21-year-old stagehand brought her to the roof and tossed her in a shaft. Craig Crimmins’ trial began on April 27, 1981, and he was convicted of felony murder a month later. He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison in 1981 and was denied parole seven times. According to court records, the 64-year-old was finally granted parole in August 2021 from the Auburn Correctional Facility and still resides in New York.
Read More: Brianna Denison Murder: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?