Another Man Is Charged in the Theft of the ‘Wizard of Oz’ Ruby Slippers

The saga continues as another elderly ex-con is charged with receiving stolen goods.

"The Wizard of Oz" Ruby Red Slippers worn by Judy Garland in 1939. Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images.

The saga of a pair of stolen ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz has gone on since 2005, when they were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. They remained missing for some 18 years despite being so highly recognizable and despite a $1 million reward. Terry Jon Martin confessed to the theft in October, seeming to bring the story of the purloined footwear to an end. But now a second elderly man has been charged in connection with the theft. 

Jerry Hal Saliterman, 76, of Hennepin County, Minnesota, faces one count of theft of a major artwork and one count of witness tampering, because he threatened an unidentified woman who knew about the theft, saying that he would send a sex tape of her to her family if she went to the authorities, according to the indictment, as reported by the New York Times. The indictment claims that Saliterman “received, concealed, and disposed of an object of cultural heritage.” 

The stolen prop was missing until 2018, when the FBI announced that it was recovered. Martin said that he was put up to the theft by a mob associate, and that he thought the slippers were made of actual rubies that he could sell on the black market. When he found out that they were merely ruby-colored, he said, “I didn’t want anything to do with them.” They were one of five pairs Garland wore on-set. 

Saliterman arrived at U.S. District Court on Friday in a wheelchair, carrying a portable breathing machine, and did not enter a plea. He was released on his own recognizance, according to the Times, which reported that Saliterman’s lawyer, John Brink, claimed, “He’s done nothing wrong,” and said that he will enter a not guilty plea when arraigned. 

Saliterman went to prison in April 1998, facing a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the federal government and credit card theft. At the time, the Minneapolis Star Tribune said he was a member of “a sophisticated fencing ring.”

Martin was not sentenced with any prison time as he suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is currently in hospice care, and is not expected to live out the year. He said that he had never seen the movie and had no idea of the item’s cultural significance. After confessing to the crime in October, he was sentenced to one year of supervised release and ordered to pay $23,500 in restitution to the museum. 

At the time of the theft, the slippers were on loan to the museum from Hollywood memorabilia collector Michael Shaw, who said of his recent reunion with the shoes that “it’s like welcoming back an old friend I haven’t seen in years.” They will go to the auction block in December in a sale organized by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, after going on public display in Los Angeles, New York, London, and Tokyo. The FBI puts their value at $3.5 million now, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

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