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Man charged with stealing "The Wizard of Oz" ruby slippers from Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids

Judy Garland Museum says ruby slipper theft wasn't inside job
Judy Garland Museum says ruby slipper theft wasn't inside job 02:24

MINNEAPOLIS -- A man has been charged with stealing the iconic ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz" from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids more than 15 years ago.

According to an indictment, Terry Jon Martin in August 2005 stole an authentic pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 film. He was charged in U.S. District Court in the District of Minnesota. 

Court records show that Martin, a 76-year-old from Grand Rapids, also has a felony conviction for receiving stolen goods out of Hennepin County dating back to 1986.

The slippers, which are worth at least $100,000, were recovered during a sting operation in Minneapolis in 2018. When the owner was given them back, he noted that they were as "pristine" as before they were stolen.

Grand Rapids Celebrates The Recovery Of Ruby Slippers by WCCO - CBS Minnesota on YouTube

"My knees buckled when I was on the phone and they said the shoes were stolen and the only thing I could blurt out was, 'Get them back!'" Michael Shaw told CBS News.

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Four known pairs exist. The recovered slippers were sent to the Smithsonian, where conservators examined them and determined the ruby slippers were authentic.

Despite years of speculation, the museum confirms the burglary was not an inside job. 

"The [suspect] lived 12 miles from the museum, as it sounds, and we don't know who this person is, so that's surprising," said Janie Heitz, the executive director of the Judy Garland Museum.

Heitz says the museum would like to be considered as a future home for the slippers once the criminal case is settled.

"Obviously we'll update our security and protect them as well as we can, but I think it would just be a great ending to this very long, drawn-out saga," she said. "That movie and those shoes bring so much joy to so many people."

Oz memorabilia earns top dollar

The slippers are far from the only props from "The Wizard of Oz" that have fetched up big prices in auctions. The ornate hourglass in the scene where the Wicked Witch of the West tells Dorothy she only has a short time to live recently sold for nearly half a million dollars.

On the other hand, the iconic blue-and-white checkered gingham dress worn by Garland was set to go to auction last spring, until a judge blocked that plan. A lawsuit alleged the dress had been missing until 2021, when it was found, along with some of Father Gilbert Hartke's other belongings, in a storage area at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Hartke had died in 1986 and his niece was suing to return the dress to the estate.

"The Wizard of Oz," widely considered one of America's top classic films, was nominated for six Oscars at the 1940 Academy Awards -- including best picture -- winning for original score and original song for "Over the Rainbow." Garland herself also won a special Oscar "for her outstanding performance as a screen juvenile during the past year," which included her other 1939 performance in "Babes in Arms."

Finding Minnesota: Judy Garland Museum (2021)

Finding Minnesota: Judy Garland Museum 03:37
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