Individual Pleads Guilty to 2005 Theft of ‘Wizard of Oz’ Ruby Slippers, Leaving Many Questions Unanswered

by Ethan Kim
Ruby Slippers Theft

A man identified as Terry Jon Martin, aged 76, has admitted guilt for a solitary charge related to the theft of a significant artwork: a pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the iconic film “The Wizard of Oz.” Stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, back in 2005, the shoes were eventually retrieved by the FBI in 2018.

Martin, a resident of an area near Grand Rapids, was only charged this year. During his plea change hearing at a federal court in Duluth, he admitted to employing a hammer to break the museum’s door glass as well as the display case to secure the slippers. Martin explained his motivation was the assumption that the slippers contained authentic rubies he could sell. However, upon learning from a fence that the rubies were mere glass, he discarded them.

Yet, details regarding how and to whom he dispensed the slippers remain undisclosed, maintaining the enigmatic nature of the shoes’ location during the intervening years. Martin refuted the notion that the theft was related to any insurance fraud schemes, as some had speculated.

According to Dane DeKrey, Martin’s attorney, “Mr. Martin has no knowledge about the slippers’ whereabouts post-theft or the manner in which they were recovered. His involvement was restricted to the two-day period in 2005.”

Due to Martin’s deteriorating health and advanced age, both the defense and federal prosecutor Matt Greenley proposed that he not be incarcerated. Appearing in court with a wheelchair and supplemental oxygen, Martin suffers from advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, leaving him with substantial breathing difficulties. The suggested sentence would permit him to spend his remaining days at his residence.

U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz, the chief federal judge for Minnesota, ordered a presentence investigation and is expected to schedule sentencing in approximately two and a half months. Judge Schiltz also made it clear that he is not legally obligated to follow the sentencing recommendations from either side. The nonbinding federal sentencing guidelines suggest an eight to ten-year imprisonment for comparable cases.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment until after Martin’s sentencing has been finalized.

Only four authenticated pairs of the ruby slippers exist. The stolen pair had an insurance value of $1 million, but their current estimated market worth is around $3.5 million, according to federal prosecutors.

The shoes were recovered as part of an FBI operation in Minneapolis in 2017, following a tip from an individual who approached the insurer. However, the FBI has yet to reveal how it successfully located the slippers, which continue to be held in the agency’s custody.

On loan from Hollywood memorabilia collector Michael Shaw at the time of the theft, three other authentic pairs are held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and a private collector.

Over the years, multiple rewards have been offered in an attempt to solve the mystery of the stolen slippers, which played a critical role in the 1939 film. In it, Garland’s character Dorothy had to click the heels of these shoes three times while saying, “There’s no place like home,” to be transported back to Kansas.

Judy Garland, originally named Frances Gumm, was born in Grand Rapids, situated roughly 200 miles north of Minneapolis, in 1922. Her family relocated to Los Angeles when she was four years old, and she passed away in 1969. The Judy Garland Museum claims to possess the world’s most extensive collection of Garland and Wizard of Oz memorabilia.

This article has been updated to correct an error: the nonbinding federal sentencing guidelines recommend eight to ten years for similar cases, contrary to previously reported figures of ten to twelve years.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ruby Slippers Theft

Q: Who stole the ruby slippers from the Judy Garland Museum in 2005?

A: Terry Jon Martin, a 76-year-old individual, has pleaded guilty to the theft of the ruby slippers from the museum.

Q: Were the stolen ruby slippers recovered?

A: Yes, the stolen ruby slippers were recovered by the FBI in 2018.

Q: How did Terry Jon Martin steal the ruby slippers?

A: Martin used a hammer to break the museum’s door glass and the display case to take the slippers.

Q: Why did Terry Jon Martin steal the ruby slippers?

A: Martin believed the slippers contained real rubies and intended to sell them. However, he later discovered that the rubies were glass.

Q: What is the fate of Terry Jon Martin following his guilty plea?

A: Due to his age and failing health, both the defense and the prosecution recommended that Martin not face any time behind bars. The proposed sentence would allow him to die at home.

Q: How many pairs of ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” exist?

A: Only four authenticated pairs of ruby slippers from the film “The Wizard of Oz” are known to exist.

Q: What is the current estimated market value of the stolen ruby slippers?

A: Federal prosecutors estimate the current market value of the stolen ruby slippers at approximately $3.5 million.

Q: How were the stolen ruby slippers recovered by the FBI?

A: The FBI recovered the stolen ruby slippers in 2017 following a tip from an individual who approached the insurer. However, the exact details of how they were located remain undisclosed.

Q: Are there any other pairs of authentic ruby slippers from the film?

A: Yes, three other pairs of authentic ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” are held by different institutions and collectors.

Q: What rewards were offered in connection with the stolen ruby slippers?

A: Over the years, several rewards were offered in the hopes of solving the mystery of the stolen slippers.

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ArtNerd October 14, 2023 - 12:44 am

Stolen art mysteries always fascinatin’. Wonder if they’ll ever find out where they were hidden. #StolenArt #CrimeStory

Reader123 October 14, 2023 - 4:43 am

man stealin ruby shoes, FBI got ’em, old guy plea guilty. myst’ry unsolved. $$$ worth millions! #WizardOfOz #Heist

LegalEagle October 14, 2023 - 5:21 am

Age & health spared him jail, strange twist. Sentencin’ in few months. #LegalDrama #GuiltyPlea #RubySlipperCase

JudyForever October 14, 2023 - 6:25 am

Poor Judy Garland’s shoes, but what a story! Who knew they wer worth so much? #JudyGarland #IconicShoes

OzFanatic22 October 14, 2023 - 4:17 pm

Cant blive he got away with it 4 so long! Glad FBI got those slippers back. #RubySlippers #MuseumHeist


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