NATIONAL NEWS

A second man is charged in connection with 2005 theft of ruby slippers worn in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Mar 17, 2024, 7:43 PM | Updated: 8:23 pm

FILE - Ruby slippers once worn by Judy Garland in the "The Wizard of Oz," are displayed at a news c...

FILE - Ruby slippers once worn by Judy Garland in the "The Wizard of Oz," are displayed at a news conference, Sept. 4, 2018, at the FBI office in Brooklyn Center, Minn. A second man has been charged in connection with the 2005 theft of a pair of the ruby slippers, according to an indictment unsealed Sunday, March 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen, File)

(AP Photo/Jeff Baenen, File)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A second man has been charged in connection with the 2005 theft of a pair of ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore in “The Wizard of Oz,” according to an indictment made public Sunday.

Jerry Hal Saliterman, 76, of Crystal, Minnesota, was charged with theft of a major artwork and witness tampering. He did not enter a plea when he made his first appearance Friday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.

The slippers, adorned with sequins and glass beads, were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in the late actor’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, nearly 20 years ago and their whereabouts remained a mystery until the FBI recovered them in 2018.

The indictment says 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 ‘The Wizard of Oz.’” The indictment says Saliterman knew they were stolen, and that he threatened to release a sex tape of a woman and “take her down with him” if she didn’t keep her mouth shut about the slippers.

Saliterman was in a wheelchair and on supplemental oxygen during his Friday court appearance. His oxygen machine hummed throughout the hearing and he bounced his knee nervously during breaks in the proceedings. He responded with “yes,” when U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Cowan Wright asked whether he understood the charges against him, but he said nothing about the allegations.

The case was not openly discussed in court. The magistrate ordered Friday that the indictment be unsealed, but it did not become publicly available until Sunday.

Saliterman’s attorney, John Brink, said after Friday’s hearing that he couldn’t say much about the case, but: “He’s not guilty. He hasn’t done anything wrong.” Saliterman, who was released on his own recognizance, declined to comment to The Associated Press outside the courthouse.

The other man involved

The man who stole the slippers, Terry Jon Martin, 76, pleaded guilty in October to theft of a major artwork, admitting to using a hammer to smash the glass of the museum’s door and display case in what his attorney said was an attempt to pull off “one last score” after turning away from a life of crime. He was sentenced in January to time served because of his poor health.

Martin’s lawyer said in court documents that an old associate of Martin’s with connections to the mob told him the shoes had to be adorned with real jewels to justify their $1 million insured value.

Martin, who lives near Grand Rapids, said at an October hearing that he hoped to take what he thought were real rubies from the shoes and sell them. But a person who deals in stolen goods, known as a fence, informed him the rubies weren’t real, Martin said. So he got rid of the slippers.

Defense attorney Dane DeKrey wrote in court documents that Martin’s unidentified former associate persuaded him to steal the slippers as “one last score,” even though Martin had seemed to have “finally put his demons to rest” after finishing his last prison term nearly 10 years earlier.

“But old habits die hard, and the thought of a ‘final score’ kept him up at night,” DeKrey wrote.

According to DeKrey’s memo, Martin had no idea about the cultural significance of the ruby slippers and had never seen “The Wizard of Oz.”

No mention of the connection between the two men

The documents unsealed Sunday do not indicate how Martin and Saliterman may have been connected.

In the classic 1939 musical, Garland’s character, Dorothy, had to click the heels of her ruby slippers three times and repeat, “There’s no place like home,” to return to Kansas from Oz. She wore several pairs during filming, but only four authentic pairs are known to remain.

The FBI never disclosed exactly how it tracked down the slippers. The bureau said a man approached the insurer in 2017 and claimed he could help recover them but demanded more than the $200,000 reward being offered. The slippers were recovered during an FBI sting in Minneapolis the next year. Federal prosecutors have put the slippers’ market value at about $3.5 million.

Hollywood memorabilia collector Michael Shaw had loaned the pair to the museum before Martin stole them. The other 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, founding director of the museum, the slippers were returned to Shaw and are being held by an auction house that plans to sell them.

Garland was born Frances Gumm in 1922. She lived in Grand Rapids, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of Minneapolis, until she was 4, when her family moved to Los Angeles. She died in 1969. The Judy Garland Museum, which includes the house where she lived, says it has the world’s largest collection of Garland and “Wizard of Oz” memorabilia.

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A second man is charged in connection with 2005 theft of ruby slippers worn in ‘The Wizard of Oz’