Man, 76, charged with stealing Judy Garland's Wizard of Oz ruby slippers

By John Mercury March 19, 2024

A second man has been charged with stealing a pair of ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard Of Oz.

The shoes were recovered by the FBI in a 2018 sting operation – 13 years after they were stolen from a museum in the late actress’s hometown.

Jerry Hal Saliterman, 76, was charged with “theft of a major artwork” and witness tampering during a hearing at St Paul District Court in St Paul, Minnesota. He did not enter a plea.

The footwear, which is adorned with sequins and glass beads, was taken from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, nearly 20 years ago.

They were worn by her character, Dorothy, in the 1939 film, and are worth around $3.5m (£2.75m), according to federal prosecutors.

Judy Garland wore the dress as Dorothy in the scene where she faced the Wicked Witch of the West in the Witch's Castle
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The Wizard Of Oz. Pic: Bonhams

The indictment said that from August 2005 to July 2018, Saliterman “received, concealed, and disposed of an object of cultural heritage” – specifically, “an authentic pair of ‘ruby slippers’ worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 movie”.

Prosecutors allege that Saliterman knew they were stolen – and claim he threatened to release a sex tape of a woman and “take her down with him” if she did not keep her mouth shut about the slippers.

Saliterman, from Crystal in Minnesota, appeared in court in a wheelchair and with a supplemental oxygen device to help his breathing. He declined to reporters after the hearing.

However, his lawyer John Brink said: “He’s not guilty. He hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Jerry Hal Saliterman, of Crystal, Minn., is wheeled out of U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minn., Friday, March 15, 2024, after he made his initial appearance on charges connected to the 2005 theft of a pair of ruby slippers worn by Dorothy in ...The Wizard of Oz.... The FBI recovered the slippers in 2018. Another man charged in the case has already pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served because of his ailing health. (AP Photo/Steve Karnowski)
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Jerry Hal Saliterman was wheeled out of court on Friday. Pic: AP Photo/Steve Karnowski

It comes after Terry Jon Martin, 76, who lived around 12 miles away from the museum, pleaded guilty to theft of a major artwork in relation to the case last October.

He admitted to using a hammer to smash the glass of the museum’s door and display case, in what his lawyer said was an attempt to pull off “one last score” after turning away from a life of crime.

Martin was sentenced in January to time served, meaning he was released and avoided further time in prison because of his poor health.

During his hearing, Martin explained he had hoped to take what he thought were real rubies from the shoes and sell them – but got rid of them when found out the “jewels” were not real.

His defence lawyer, Dane DeKrey, said Martin had no idea about the cultural significance of the slippers and had never seen The Wizard of Oz.

The court documents did not detail any possible connection between Martin and Saliterman.

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The slippers are associated with one of the most famous lines in the musical: “There’s no place like home”.

The footwear seemingly takes on magical powers when Dorothy utters the line three times and clicks her heels – helping to transport her back home to Kansas.

The shoes are one of just four remaining pairs of red slippers worn by Garland in the film.

The other three pairs are held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian Museum of American History and a private collector.

According to John Kelsh, the founding director of the museum from where the slippers were stolen, they have now been returned to their original owner – memorabilia collector Michael Shaw – and will later be sold at auction.

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