Violins returned to smash-and-grab victim

SAN FRANCISCO -- It happens all too often--you leave your car for what seems like an instant and come back to find shattered glass and missing possessions.

Often times they're gone for good, but this smash-and-grab has an unexpectedly happy ending.

For the band Tedrow and the Good Intentions, music is a family affair.

"I play mandolin, my brother plays guitar and Sheri is the violinist," said Melanie Ingram. "More of a fiddler I would say."

After a show at the Hotel Utah, they continued the reunion with some family bonding.

"We went and did this escape room together," said Ingram. "It's kind of like a fun team building experience."

The eerie puzzle rooms inside the Palace of Fine Arts come with some real life warnings on the outside, that tell patrons not to leave valuables in their car.

The family had just said their goodbyes outside the historic building when,"All of a sudden I see Sheri walking up to me," said Ingram. "And There's tears coming down her face."

The car window was broken and the case with her two violins inside was gone. The blue one--a family heirloom. The other--hers since childhood.

"It's gone with me everywhere," said Sheri. "Through all my orchestra days."

Police told Sheri the honest truth, that finding items stolen out of a parked car can be like finding a needle in a haystack, but Sheri and her friends were very determined.

"Our friend Melanie actually decided to start calling all the pawn shops in the city," said Ingram.

They finally called Liberal Loan and Jewelry.

"She asked me if I had taken the violins in, and I said, 'Yes I did,'" said owner Mike Balopolous.

He sees lots of violins. "Normally they're just violins," Balopolous said. "Normally they're just student violins."

These ones stood out.

"The first clue was the case, I've been in business 60 years. I've never seen a double violin case."

He bought them for $100 knowing someone would come looking.

"The stuff goes to flea markets, garage sales, they sell it on the street, in this case I felt like if I didn't pick it up, then it would get lost in the jungle," Balopolous told ABC7 News.

Sheri was more than happy to buy back her priceless instruments. "I think 100 bucks is very reasonable," she said.