Jerry Martin may soon find himself uttering the words, “There’s no place like prison.” Martin was formally accused by a grand jury in North Dakota last week for allegedly stealing Judy Garland’s iconic red sequined slippers from the film “The Wizard of Oz.” The theft took place in 2005, but the slippers were eventually recovered in 2018 thanks to an FBI investigation and a subsequent undercover operation. Martin now faces an indictment on a single count of stealing a valuable piece of artwork.
“The Wizard of Oz,” a timeless film released in 1939, featured Judy Garland as its leading star, and she wore several pairs of these distinctive slippers during production. However, only four pairs of these genuine slippers are known to exist today.
The slippers had an insurance coverage of $1 million, but their actual estimated worth is approximately $3.5 million. This particular pair of slippers was exhibited in the Judy Garland Museum located in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, which holds special significance as it is Garland’s hometown. The thief managed to enter the museum by breaking a window, then proceeded to smash the display case containing the valuable slippers before escaping with these iconic artifacts. At first, the authorities announced a reward of $250,000 for any relevant information, but a private anonymous donor generously increased the reward by an additional $1 million.
The situation took a significant turn in 2017 when an individual reached out to the insurance company, offering valuable information to aid in the recovery of the stolen slippers. This prompted the involvement of the FBI, who dedicated a year to investigating the matter before apprehending Martin. The slippers themselves are an extraordinary display of craftsmanship, crafted from nearly a dozen different materials, including silk, gelatin, wood pulp, plastic, and glass. The striking ruby effect is achieved through meticulously sewn rows of sequins, while the bows are adorned with beads and cut red glass.
During the time of the theft, these slippers were on loan from a private collector of Hollywood memorabilia. The remaining three pairs are held by other private collectors, namely The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and the Smithsonian.