18-year mystery solved as man pleads guilty to stealing ‘Wizard of Oz’ ruby slippers from museum

A Minnesota man has pleaded guilty to stealing the ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in the “The Wizard of Oz” from a museum in 2005.

Terry Jon Martin, 76, admitted to stealing the iconic footwear from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 2005. The shoes were recovered by the FBI in 2018.

He pleaded guilty to one count of theft of major artwork.

“At the time of theft, the slippers were ensured for $1 million but current fair market appraisal value the slippers at $3.5 million,” according to the release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota.

These ruby slippers, the release stated, “are one of the four remaining pairs and are widely viewed as among the most recognizable memorabilia in American film history.”

Mr Martin previously pleaded not guilty in June, but he has since decided to change his plea and entered into a plea deal.

In federal court, he said he used a hammer to smash both the glass of the museum door and the display case to take the iconic shoes.

Mr Martin also said that he was under the impression that the slippers contained real rubies, as he had planned to sell the gems. Upon his attempt, a fence told him the rubies were glass, so he said he gave away the slippers — but it’s unclear to whom he gave them.

“Terry has no idea where they were and how they were recovered,” Martin’s attorney, Dane DeKrey explained. “His involvement was that two-day period in 2005.”

The FBI has never unveiled how it found the slippers, keeping an aura of mystery surrounding the 1939 film’s magical shoes.

Both Mr DeKrey and the federal prosecutor recommended that Mr Martin not face any time behind bars, due to his age and poor health, as he has advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“He’s basically slowly suffocating to death,” his attorney said.

Minnesota’s chief federal judge ordered a presentence investigation. He said the sentencing date is likely to be scheduled for 2.5 months from Friday.

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