Man charged with stealing Judy Garland’s iconic ruby slippers from Grand Rapids museum

There are only four known surviving pairs from filming
After almost 20 years, the mystery of who stole Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from a Grand Rapids museum may have come to an end.
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 1:28 PM CDT|Updated: May. 17, 2023 at 3:07 PM CDT
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GRAND RAPIDS, MN. (Northern News Now) - After almost 20 years, the mystery of who stole Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from a Grand Rapids museum may have come to an end.

A grand jury indicted Terry Jon Martin, 76, allegedly from Grand Rapids, with federal charges on Tuesday with one count of theft of a major artwork, federal prosecutors in North Dakota announced Wednesday.

The indictment states Martin allegedly took the slippers in August 2005 from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, the late actress’ hometown.

In addition, Martin has no lawyer listed on the indictment.

The iconic ruby slippers were worn during the filming of the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz” and are one of the only four known surviving pairs from filming.

Federal prosecutors stated when the slippers were stolen they were insured for $1 million but the current market value is about $3.5 million.

Court documents didn’t explain why Martin may have taken the slippers back in 2005.

However, online records show the 76-year-old doesn’t live very far from the museum.

Museum directors explained finding out how close he was this whole time was a big surprise to them.

Judy Garland Museum Curator, John Kelsch, who worked for the museum at the time, recalled the day the ruby slippers were taken.

“They smashed the glass on the back door and glass was shattered all down the hallway,” explains Kelsch. “They entered and departed within less than a minute.”

Since 2015, the Grand Rapids Police Department conducted countless interviews, numerous theories, and even searches of abandoned iron ore pits, the slippers were never located and no arrests were made.

When the extortion plot against the Markel Corporation surfaced in 2017, the GRPD requested assistance from the FBI.

The ruby slippers were recovered during a sting operation in Minneapolis in July 2018.

In a news release, the FBI stated they transported the slippers to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. to be closely examined and analyzed for evidence of wear and details unique to their use in the 1939 film.

Examination showed that their construction, materials, and wear are consistent with the pair in the museum’s collection, which was donated to the museum by an anonymous donor in 1979.

It is not stated what kind of evidence led the FBI to connect Martin to the crime.

However, museum leaders didn’t get a lot of updates on the efforts to find out who was responsible throughout the time they were missing.

Now, they just want the slippers back home.

“We want them here. We would love to see the ruby slippers at the Judy Garland Museum for the remainder of time,” says Janie Heitz, Judy Garland Museum Executive Director. “It’s where Judy was born. It’s a great place for them, she called it a terribly happy time in her life.”

This year’s Judy Garland Festival is coming up as it’s set to start Thursday, June 8 which features all kinds of Judy Garland-related events.

Fittingly, the theme this year is ruby slippers.

Museum directors say this news couldn’t have come at a better time.

Martin’s initial court appearance has been set for June 1, 2023, in Federal Court.

It is not known if he is in custody.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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