Minnesota, January 24, 2024 – The man who pleaded guilty to stealing the iconic ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, Terry Jon Martin, has disclosed the motive behind the daring 2005 heist. Martin, described as an “aging reformed mobster,” explained that an unidentified former mob associate persuaded him to commit “one last score” by stealing the valuable shoes from the Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota.
Martin, now 76, was indicted by the U.S. District Court in Minnesota in May 2023 on charges of theft of major artwork. He pleaded guilty in October, admitting to his involvement in the theft that captivated the nation nearly two decades ago.
According to Martin’s defense attorney, Dane DeKrey, the seasoned criminal initially resisted the invitation to participate in the heist. Having a felony conviction in 1988 and maintaining a clean record since his release in 1996, Martin hesitated but eventually succumbed to the allure of a “final score” that plagued his thoughts.
“But old habits die hard, and the thought of a ‘final score’ kept him up at night,” DeKrey wrote in a memo ahead of Martin’s upcoming January 29 sentencing hearing. The defense attorney revealed that Martin, after much contemplation, experienced a criminal relapse and decided to partake in the theft.
Martin’s plan was to sell rubies from the glass slippers, believing they were adorned with real jewels. However, his scheme unraveled when he discovered the rubies were made of glass. He disposed of the slippers less than two days after the theft, unaware of their cultural significance and admitting he had never seen The Wizard of Oz before.
At the time of the theft, the slippers were insured for $1 million, but their current value is estimated at $3.5 million. The FBI recovered the slippers in Minneapolis in September 2018 while investigating a scheme to defraud and extort the Markel Corporation, the owner of the slippers. The whereabouts of the stolen slippers remained unknown until 2017, sparking a collaboration between Grand Rapids, Minnesota police and the FBI.
Both Martin’s defense attorney and prosecutors are recommending that he be sentenced to time served due to his deteriorating health. Martin is in hospice care, relying on an oxygen tank at all times and using a wheelchair. His life expectancy is fewer than six months.
The stolen ruby slippers are one of four authentic pairs worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. The other three pairs are owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, housed at its museum in Los Angeles, the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., and an anonymous private collector.
Martin’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Monday, January 29. The bizarre tale of a former mobster’s attempt at one last daring score continues to captivate audiences, highlighting the enduring allure of the stolen ruby slippers.