A federal grand jury has indicted a Minnesota man for allegedly stealing a pair of ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 classic movie “The Wizard of Oz” from a museum nearly 20 years ago.
Terry Jon Martin, 76, was charged Tuesday with one count of theft of a major artwork, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is accused of breaking into the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in August 2005 and taking the slippers, which were on loan from a Hollywood memorabilia collector.
The slippers, one of four pairs known to have survived from the movie production, were insured for $1 million at the time of the theft but are now estimated to be worth $3.5 million, according to federal prosecutors.
The case remained unsolved for more than a decade until 2017, when an anonymous tipster contacted the insurer and offered to help recover the slippers. The following year, the FBI conducted an undercover operation in Minneapolis and seized the shoes. No arrests were made at that time.
The slippers are considered to be among the most recognizable items of film history and a symbol of American culture. In the movie, Garland’s character Dorothy clicks her heels and repeats the phrase “There’s no place like home” to return to Kansas from the magical land of Oz.
The shoes were created by MGM’s chief designer Gilbert Adrian, who dyed a pair of pumps red and covered them in sequins. Most of the ruby color comes from sequins but the bows of the shoes contain red glass beads.
The other three pairs of ruby slippers are held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian and a private collector. The Smithsonian’s pair underwent a year-long conservation effort in 2017 to restore their sparkle and prevent further deterioration.
Mr. Martin is scheduled to make his initial court appearance on June 1 via video conference. It is unclear if he has an attorney.
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