A man has been charged by US prosecutors for the theft of the iconic red slippers worn by Judy Garland’s character Dorothy in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.”
The valuable shoes were recovered in an FBI operation back in 2018, following their theft from a museum in August 2005. However, no arrests were made at that time.
Federal prosecutors have now filed charges against Terry Martin, a 76-year-old resident of Minnesota, for the theft of this significant artwork. These particular slippers are one of only four pairs known to exist.
The theft occurred at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The thief had broken through a window in the building’s back door to gain access, leaving no fingerprints and triggering no alarms, as reported by CBS News, the BBC’s US partner.
They were found in a sting operation launched by the FBI’s art crime team. The case is being handled by federal prosecutors in North Dakota and the FBI’s Minneapolis Division.
The red shoes are central to The Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy clicks the heels of the shoes together and says “there’s no place like home” she is transported back to Kansas.
Charging documents released on Tuesday contained no information about what led to Mr Martin’s arrest. On Wednesday, Martin told a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “I gotta go on trial. I don’t want to talk to you.”
According to the newspaper, Mr. Martin resides approximately 12 miles away from the museum, which is situated at Judy Garland’s childhood home.
Janie Heitz, the executive director of the museum, stated that she does not believe the suspect had any association with the museum as an employee.
These cherished pieces of Hollywood memorabilia, valued at $3.5 million (£2.8 million), were appraised by the US Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota. It was noted that at the time of the theft, nearly 18 years ago, they were insured for $1 million.
One of the other pairs of red sequined slippers is housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, while another pair was acquired by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 2012.
The stolen slippers remain under the custody of the FBI. “Until the court cases are done, nothing can be done with them,” the museum wrote on Facebook.