At least, he thinks he might have. It also might have been stolen from the unlocked car while he was in the store. He's not really sure what happened. In any case, according to family lore, it ended up on the side of a road, where a woman initially mistook it for a baby. A tragically deformed, violin-shaped baby? Whatever. She eventually gifted the violin to her nephew, who lost it as part of a divorce settlement to Teresa Salvato, who decided this was as good a time as any to take up the violin. Her teacher, the first person to come across the Duke in 27 years who had any inkling of its value, took it to a dealer, who identified it from a photo in a book about its creator. It had the same scratches on the back. It was worth $800,000.
Salvato, who learned from the dealer that the violin was listed in a registry as stolen, took this information to UCLA in the spiritual, if not physical, form of letters cut out of magazines. After she refused to give it back to them, she was somehow surprised when campus police officers started paying her visits. This was 1994 Los Angeles, so frankly, she got off light. The question of who owned the violin was brought to court, but eventually Salvato settled, surrendering the violin in exchange for a payment of a fraction of its worth. We're talking about 1/70th of its worth. We don't know what they did to her to get her to accept that deal, but don't mess with classical musicians, people. They might not look threatening, but they're ruthless.