Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘The Wizard of Oz’ Ruby Slipper Thief Expected to Avoid Prison Time

‘The Wizard of Oz’ Ruby Slipper Thief Expected to Avoid Prison Time

A judge on Monday declined to give prison time to a dying man who admitted to stealing a pair of ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. These were actual shoes that actress Judy Garland wore in the movie. Terry John Martin, 75, stole them in 2005 from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn.

Martin did this because he wanted to pull off “one last heist.” He learned from a mob connection that the shoes would only be worth their $1 million price tag if they had real jewels on them. The ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, of course, are valuable because of their cultural significance, not their sequined surface.

Upon hearing the ruling, Martin didn’t react much and couldn’t stand up from his chair. He also declined to make any statement in the court.

Defense attorney Dane DeKrey said this resolution should bring a measure of closure to all parties involved. DeKrey adds that the federal government held one person accountable. In turn, the slippers’ collector and owner found out what happened, the Associated Press reports.

‘Wizard of Oz’ Ruby Slippers Thief Near Death

As for Martin, he’s not carrying this secret to his grave now. He is in the final months of his life. “They will never be made whole in this case,” DeKrey said of the victims. “But they’re more whole than they had been in the last 18 years.”

Back in 2018, the FBI picked up the fabled shoes when another person attempted to nab the reward. Martin did not get charged with stealing them until last year. Prosecutor Matthew Greenley said in court Monday that investigators used phone records to nab Martin. They also used his wife’s immigration status as leverage to search Martin’s home and get him to confess.

Martin pled guilty to theft of a major artwork, admitting to using a hammer to smash the glass of the museum door and display case to take the slippers. Martin’s motivation stayed mostly a mystery until DeKrey revealed it in a court filing this month.

At the October hearing, Martin said that he hoped to remove real rubies from the shoes and then sell them. A person who trades stolen goods, known as a fence, though, told Martin that the rubies weren’t real. So Martin got rid of the slippers.

In his memo, DeKrey wrote that Martin’s unidentified former associate persuaded him to steal the slippers as “one last score.” That’s even though Martin seemed to have “finally put his demons to rest” after finishing his last prison term nearly 10 years earlier.

Defense Attorney Says Slipper Thief Had a ‘Criminal Relapse’

“At first, Terry declined the invitation to participate in the heist. But old habits die hard, and the thought of a ‘final score’ kept him up at night,” DeKrey wrote. “After much contemplation, Terry had a criminal relapse and decided to participate in the theft.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz accepted the recommendation from both sides. He sentenced Martin to time served because he is housebound in hospice care. Martin requires constant oxygen therapy for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. He had to be brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair. The machine’s loud hum echoed through the courtroom.

Schiltz told Martin he probably would have sentenced him to 10 years in prison if it was still 2005. The judge also accepted the recommendation from both sides that Martin should pay $23,500 in restitution to the museum and ordered him to pay $300 a month.

“I certainly do not want to minimize the seriousness of Mr. Martin’s crime,” Schiltz said. “Mr. Martin intended to steal and destroy an irreplaceable part of American culture.”

Garland wore the magical ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz as she played Dorothy opposite Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, and Jack Haley. Of course, her theme song for the rest of her life was Over the Rainbow from this movie.