Cinephiles are likely aware of the fact that movie memorabilia can be incredibly valuable. For instance, someone laid out $96,000 for Prince’s Purple Rain costume, while $160,000 was spent on Star-Lord’s helmet from 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy when it went up for auction. Another famous film that has highly coveted props and outfits is The Wizard of Oz, and something was stolen over a decade ago. The ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland’s Dorothy Gale were snatched but eventually recovered. Now, the thief’s motive has been revealed, and it’s oddly comparable to the main plot of the 1939 fantasy flick.
The iconic kicks were stolen in 2005 by Terry Jon Martin, who nabbed them from the Judy Garland Museum in the late actress’ hometown, Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Martin, who’s now 76, is a former mobster who apparently pulled his share of crimes back in the day. The senior citizen pleaded guilty to the crime in October 2023, and his reason for taking the shoes in the first place was divulged in a memo filed by his attorney, Dane DeKrey. Per the lawyer, Martin made off with the pair of items, because he believed they were studded with actual rubies and planned to extract and sell them. However, after speaking to a fence, he learned that the gems were actually made of glass and, as a result, Martin dumped them less than two days after the theft.
According to The Washington Times, the defendant smashed through the glass door of the museum to gain entry and then proceeded to destroy the case holding the slippers. Terry Jon Martin allegedly hadn’t committed a crime for a decade up to that point but was enticed to go for a “final score” by one of his former associates from the mob. While he was apparently hesitant at first, Martin eventually decided to go through with the plan. After he got rid of the props, someone else got their hands on them, and the FBI ultimately reclaimed the shoes in 2018 after an individual attempted to claim the insurance award for them. Martin wasn’t formally charged with taking them until 2023.
It’s hard not to see the irony in this situation. The Wizard of Oz – one of the most influential movies of all time – sees making her way across the titular land after being told that a mystical man can send her back home to Kansas. Of course, she eventually finds out that the so-called wizard isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. In the case of the now-reformed mobster, he was also told that the supposed rubies he sought had value, though that didn’t prove to be the case. It’s a strange coincidence, to say the least, and one has to wonder whether the legal team can see it as well.
To be fair, some probably could understand why the defendant thought so much of the value of the slippers, which are just one of several pairs that exist and are housed in different places. They’re reportedly insured for a whopping $1 million and, more recently, prosecutors have valued them at $3.5 million. As mentioned, it’s far from the only item of the movie to have a lot of value. Dorothy’s dress sold for $480,000 during an auction held back in 2012.
As it stands, Terry Jon Martin is set to be sentenced on January 29 in Duluth, Minnesota. He’s currently dealing with health issues and reportedly has been given only months to live. With that, his legal team is hoping that he’ll receive a compassionate release. And, should such forgiveness be granted to Martin, that would also fall in line with the third act of the famous film in a way.