DULUTH, Minn. — A 76-year-old Grand Rapids man has changed his plea to guilty in connection to the theft of a pair of ruby slippers from the classic 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.”
Terry Martin, 76, appeared in a Duluth federal courtroom on Friday. He is charged with one count of major artwork theft, accused of stealing the iconic shoes from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids back in 2005.
Martin previously pleaded not guilty to the charge in June. His trial, which was scheduled to start this week, was delayed.
In court Friday, Martin admitted he used a small sledgehammer to break into the museum. He then used the tool to crack the case the slippers were in and take them. He said he didn’t hear any alarm. He took off in his car and kept them in a trailer adjacent to his home.
In 2005, he brought them to a “jewelry fence,” which is a criminal who buys and resells stolen goods. The fence informed him that the jewels were actually made of glass, and not real rubies. Martin said at some point, he gave the shoes to someone else. It is not clear if it was the fence or someone else. He says he had no contact with them after that.
Martin is being represented by a public defender and had been released prior to the trial with conditions.
As part of the plea, both sides agreed to a sentence of time served given Martin’s health — he is in hospice for advanced COPD.
The judge will decide at sentencing if he will go along with the plea agreement or give another sentence. That should happen in the next few months.
The slippers, one of four existing pairs made for the film, were insured for $1 million, but may now be worth more than three times that amount. They are now in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., where researchers were able to authenticate them.
The shoes, owned by collector Michael Shaw, were on loan to the Judy Garland Museum when they were stolen. They were recovered and returned to Shaw following a 2018 sting operation. Shaw told investigators at the time that the slippers were as “pristine” as they were before the theft.
According to the Judy Garland Museum, the star was born Frances Ethel Gumm in Minnesota in 1922. She spent the first four years of her life in Grand Rapids before her vaudevillian family moved to southern California.
NOTE: The original airdate of the video attached to this article is Oct. 3, 2023, before Martin changed his plea.