Tales of the Bizarre: Mobster Comes Out of Retirement for ‘Wizard of Oz’ Ruby Slippers

Iconic ruby slippers from
Brian To/FilmMagic/Getty Images

The case of the missing ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz may be partially solved. Back in 2005, collector (and former child actor) Michael Shaw lent the shoes to the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Someone broke into the museum, broke the display case, and stole the slippers. At the time, apparently, there were no cameras or high security because there were no suspects and the slippers were not recovered.

For years, many people believed that Shaw was the culprit after he collected an $800,000 insurance settlement. A million-dollar reward was offered in 2015 but it wasn’t until 2018 that the slippers were found during an FBI sting operation. Even then, they had no clue who committed the crime. Last year, a former mobster named Terry Jon Martin, who lived near the museum was named a suspect.

The Wizard of Oz Dorothy's ruby slippers, 1939

Everett Collection

The Department of Justice has now confirmed that he agreed to a plea deal. According to the filing, Martin served time in prison for mob-related activities and was released in 1996. He was reformed for many years but relapsed and stole the slipper after a former associate told him the shoes were covered in real rubies. He was unfamiliar with the movie so when he realized that the shoes were made of glass, he got rid of them two days after he stole them.

Iconic ruby slippers from "The Wizard Oz" unveiled at Solange Azagury-Partridge on November 14, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California

Brian To/FilmMagic/Getty Images

According to his defense attorney, Dane DeKrey, “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. After much contemplation, Terry had a criminal relapse and decided to participate in the theft.”

The Wizard of Oz Bert Lahr, Judy Garland, Jack Haley, Ray Bolger, 1939

Everett Collection

The whole story is bizarre because there has been no information released on why the FBI narrowed in on Martin as a suspect or how they ended up finding the slippers so many years later. 76-year-old Martin will be sentenced in a few days but he is currently in hospice care with a chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. What do you think about this crazy story?

Want more Tales of the Bizarre? Check out our other stories and get your fill of weird history.

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