Grand Rapids man pleads guilty, explains why he stole Judy Garland’s ruby slippers

He thought the rubies were real
Published: Oct. 13, 2023 at 10:46 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 15, 2023 at 10:51 AM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - The man who stole Judy Garland’s famous ruby slippers from a Grand Rapids museum changed his plea to guilty during a court hearing Friday and explained why he committed the crime.

Garland, who was born in Grand Rapids, wore the slippers during the movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

Terry Martin, 76, of Grand Rapids, pleaded guilty to using a small sledgehammer to break through the door of the Judy Garland Museum and smash the glass casing over the ruby slippers’ display in late August of 2005.

He said he hid the shoes in a trailer near his home.

In court Friday, he testified once he discovered the ruby slippers were made of glass and not actual rubies, he “didn’t want anything to do with them,” and got rid of them. It’s unclear what exactly he did with them.

“The impetus for Terry’s decision to steal these slippers was because he truly believed that they were rubies. And when he realized they weren’t, that is when he got rid of them,” said Dane DeKrey, Attorney for Terry Martin.

As part of the plea agreement, there’s a good chance Martin may not serve any time in jail.

“The parties here made a joint recommendation that Terry should serve no time in prison. That’s one of the driving reasons why we made this choice,” DeKrey said.

Sentencing is likely to happen in the next couple of months.

Sitting in the courtroom Friday was the curator of the Judy Garland Museum, John Kelsch.

He said finally knowing what happened, gives him some peace of mind.

“A little, but there’s still more to the story I think,” Kelsch said.

According to Kelsch, the slippers were on loan from a private collector when they were stolen, which created a big problem for the museum.

“So it was a nightmare for the museum. We had to have lawyers, litigation, mediation that went on for years. We didn’t even want to think about it anymore. We were so worried that we’d get a huge legal bill,” Kelsch said.

In July 2018 an FBI sting operation uncovered the slippers in Minneapolis.

Several years later, in May 2023, a grand jury indicted Martin on a federal charge.

In June, Martin pleaded not guilty in federal court before changing his plea to guilty Friday.

The judge said sentencing is expected in the next couple of months, but they have not set an exact date yet.

There was no immediate word on what kind of sentence is expected, though part of the plea agreement stipulates that Martin will not serve any jail time.

According to authorities, the judge is not obligated to follow that agreement.

Martin is facing one count of theft of major artwork.

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.

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