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Man charged with theft of ‘Wizard of Oz’ ruby ​​slippers worn by Judy Garland


A man has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of stealing a pair of ruby ​​slippers worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz,” say federal prosecutors in North Dakota. The shoes were stolen and recovered in 2005 in an FBI sting operation in 2018, but no arrests were made at the time.

Terry Martin was indicted Tuesday on a charge of theft of a major work of art, prosecutors announced Wednesday. The indictment contained no further information about Martin and online records do not list an attorney for him.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Martin is 76 and lives 12 miles south of the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. When the paper reached him, he said, “I have to stand trial. I do not want to talk to you.”

Janie Heitz, the museum’s executive director, told The Associated Press she was surprised the suspect lived nearby, but said no one who works at the museum knows him.

Garland wore several pairs of ruby ​​slippers during the production of the 1939 musical, but only four authentic pairs remain. When they were stolen, the slippers were insured for $1 million, but the current market value is about $3.5 million, federal prosecutors said in a press release.

The slippers had been loaned to the Judy Garland Museum in the late actor’s hometown when someone climbed through a window and broke the display case, prosecutors said when they were recovered.

Heitz said she and museum staff were “a little speechless” that someone had been charged nearly two decades after the slippers were stolen.

Over the years, various enticing rewards were offered in hopes that the slippers would turn up. Law enforcement offered $250,000 at the beginning of the case, and an anonymous Arizona donor donated $1 million in 2015.

The road to the missing slippers started when a man told the shoe insurer in 2017 that he could help get them back. After nearly a year of investigation, the FBI seized the shoes in July 2018 in Minneapolis. At the time, the agency said no one has been arrested or charged in the case.

A summons was issued for Martin on Wednesday. A first trial was scheduled for June 1 and will be via video. Terry Van Horn, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department in North Dakota, said he could not provide information beyond the one-paragraph indictment.

The shoes are famously associated with one of the iconic lines in “The Wizard of Oz,” as Garland’s character Dorothy clicks her heels and repeats the phrase, “There’s no place like home.” They are made from about a dozen different materials, including wood pulp, silk thread, gelatin, plastic, and glass. Most of the ruby ​​color comes from sequins, but the bows of the shoes contain red glass beads.

The three other pairs Garland wore in the film were owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian, and a private collector.

When they were stolen, the slippers were on loan from Hollywood memorabilia collector Michael Shaw, who received an insurance payment seven years after the theft, according to the museum’s director.

Heitz said museum staff hopes the slippers will return to Garland’s hometown after the trial ends.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.