Man accused of stealing ‘Wizard of Oz’ ruby-red slippers in 2005 indicted by federal grand jury
Dorthy's ruby red slippers can't just take you home, they can also land you in federal court.
That much was made apparent after a federal grand jury indicted Terry Martin, 76, with one count of theft of a major artwork for allegedly stealing one of four remaining pairs of Dorthy's ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz.
The indictment claims that Mr Martin stole the slippers — worn by Judy Garland in her iconic 1939 role — in 2005 during an after-hours "visit" to the Judy Garland Museum in the actress's hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
Federal prosecutors alleged on Tuesday that Mr Martin climbed into the museum through a window, broke a display case containing the slippers, and took off with the legendary film artefact, according to ABC News.
The museum's alarm had been tripped, but it failed to alert local police, according to a report by The Guardian.
“The biggest thing that ever happened to our museum was getting the slippers stolen. We were literally crying,” the museum’s co-founder, Jon Miner, told KQDS just after the robbery.
The slippers were on loan to the museum from Hollywood memorabilia collector Michael Shaw when they were stolen. The other three pairs worn in the movie are in the possession of a private collector, the Smithsonian, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
At the time of their theft, the slippers were insured for $1m but had a market value of approximately $3.5m.
After they disappeared, law enforcement, enthusiasts and film history buffs offered up rewards for the slippers' safe return, with one anonymous donor in Arizona offering up to $1m. The museum even hired a private investigator in 2013 to try to track down the slippers, but the investigation never made headway.
In 2017, a man came forward and told the company that insured the slippers he could assist in their recovery. That man was later found to have been allegedly attempting to extort the individual who stole the shoes, according to the FBI. The agency launched a nearly year-long investigation, after which they launched a sting operation to recover the slippers.
The FBI managed to recover the slippers in Minneapolis during the operation, and later examination by experts confirmed the shoes were authentic. However, no arrests were made following the sting, as the FBI was continuing its investigation into who actually stole the memorabilia.
Since the 2018 recovery operation, the agency has been working to rule out suspects.
Little is known about Mr Martin beyond his age. The indictment did not include a motive or any details about how investigators determined Mr Martin was behind the alleged theft. No attorney's information is available for Mr Martin.