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Ruby Slippers’ Thief Exposes Decades-Old Secret

The 76-year-old Terry Jon Martin, a resident of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, has finally emerged from the shadows to confess to stealing a pair of iconic ruby slipers worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 film The Wizard Of Oz. The shoes, valued at around three and a half million dollars, were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in 2005 and recovered three years ago by the FBI. Martin’s confession brings an end to an 18-year-old mystery that had gone cold, leaving investigators and the public alike to wonder how the thief remained undetected for so long.

According to Martin’s lawyer, Dane DeKrey, his client has been cooperative and has been facing his own mortality, which may have contributed to his decision to confess. DeKrey maintained that much of the government’s evidence has been covered by a protective order, prohibiting its public disclosure. This has led to questions about the investigative process and the path that led authorities to Martin, who was charged with one count of theft of a major artwork in May this year and allowed to remain free on his own recognizance.

The ruby slippers, made from a combination of materials including wood pulp, silk thread, gelatin, plastic, and glass, are key props in the classic 1939 musical. They were worn by Garland’s character, Dorothy, as she navigated the colorful Land of Oz and eventually returned home to Kansas. The shoes were insured for one million dollars when they were stolen, but the FBI estimated their current market value to be significantly higher, around three and a half million dollars.

The investigation that led to Martin’s confession was initiated after an anonymous donor from Arizona offered a million-dollar reward in 2015. The FBI said a man approached the insurer in 2017 and offered to help recover the slippers, leading to the sting operation. Martin’s plea agreement will outline the factual basis for his guilty plea, and the judge is expected to set a sentencing date within the next three months. Although the recommended sentence is not publicly known, Martin’s lawyer noted that the non-binding federal sentencing guidelines typically recommend eight to 10 years in similar cases.

Terry Jon Martin

The Judy Garland Museum, which displayed the stolen ruby slippers on loan from a Hollywood memorabilia collector, has one of the largest collections of Garland and Wizard Of Oz memorabilia. Established in 1975 in the house where Garland lived as a child, the museum remains a popular tourist destination in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Despite the theft of the ruby slippers, the museum’s collection continues to attract visitors from around the world, a testament to the enduring popularity of The Wizard Of Oz.

Judy Garland, born Frances Gumm in 1922, lived in Grand Rapids until she was four, when her family moved to Los Angeles. She passed away in 1969 due to a barbiturate overdose, but her legacy lives on through her iconic performances and the enduring popularity of The Wizard Of Oz. The ruby slippers, which have appeared in several pairs throughout the filming of The Wizard Of Oz, will continue to be a cherished part of American cultural heritage, with Martin’s confession serving as a reminder of the importance of preserving our cultural treasures for future generations.

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