A 76-year-old Grand Rapids resident, Terry Martin, changed his plea to guilty concerning the theft of the famous ruby slippers from the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz.” Martin was in a Duluth federal court on Friday, facing charges of major artwork theft. He confessed to stealing the renowned shoes from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids in 2005, having previously pleaded not guilty in June.
Detailing his actions in court, Martin shared that he broke into the museum using a small sledgehammer, subsequently using the tool to shatter the case protecting the slippers. After the theft, Martin revealed that he kept the slippers in a trailer near his home. Later in 2005, he took the shoes to a “jewelry fence” — an individual specializing in purchasing and reselling stolen items. To Martin’s disappointment, he was informed that the slippers’ jewels were made of glass and not genuine rubies. After this revelation, Martin handed the slippers to an undisclosed individual and lost all contact.
Both the defense and prosecution, in light of Martin’s deteriorating health, as he is receiving hospice care for advanced COPD, agreed on a sentence of time served. The final sentencing decision lies with the judge and is expected in the upcoming months.
One of four known pairs from the film, the ruby slippers were insured for $1 million, but their current valuation is believed to be thrice that amount. The slippers are now housed in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. for authentication.
The shoes, which belong to collector Michael Shaw, were on loan to the Judy Garland Museum when stolen and were later retrieved in a 2018 sting operation. Shaw confirmed their pristine condition post-recovery.
The Judy Garland Museum notes that the famed actress, originally named Frances Ethel Gumm, was born in Minnesota in 1922 and lived in Grand Rapids before relocating to California with her family.