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

Second Suspect Charged in 2005 Heist of Iconic ‘Wizard of Oz’ Ruby Slippers

In St. Paul, Minnesota, a new development has emerged in the case of the stolen ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in “The Wizard of Oz.” A second individual has been formally accused in relation to the 2005 theft. The indictment, which was revealed to the public on Sunday, has brought new details to light.

Jerry Hal Saliterman, a 76-year-old resident of Crystal, Minnesota, faces charges of stealing a significant piece of art and tampering with a witness. Saliterman did not submit a plea during his initial court appearance, which took place on Friday at the U.S. District Court in St. Paul.

The iconic slippers, known for their sequins and glass beads, were taken from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, almost two decades ago. The mystery of their location remained unsolved until the FBI managed to recover them in 2018.

According to the indictment, from August 2005 to July 2018, Saliterman was involved in the concealment and disposal of the slippers, fully aware that they were stolen. He is accused of threatening to expose a sex tape of a woman and harm her reputation if she disclosed information about the slippers.

During his court appearance on Friday, Saliterman, who used a wheelchair and supplemental oxygen, appeared nervous but confirmed his understanding of the charges when questioned by U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Cowan Wright. However, he refrained from commenting on the allegations.

The discussion of the case was kept private during the court session. The magistrate decided to unseal the indictment on Friday, but it was not made public until Sunday.

Saliterman’s lawyer, John Brink, spoke briefly after the hearing, maintaining his client’s innocence and stating that Saliterman had not committed any wrongdoing. Saliterman himself chose not to comment when approached by The Associated Press outside the courthouse.

Terry Jon Martin, the man who admitted to stealing the slippers, pleaded guilty in October to theft of a major artwork. He confessed to breaking into the museum with the intention of committing “one last score,” motivated by his attorney’s statement about his attempt to leave behind a criminal past. Due to his poor health, Martin was sentenced in January to time served.

Martin’s attorney revealed in court documents that an old associate with mob connections had convinced Martin that the slippers’ jewels were real and valuable. However, after learning the rubies were not genuine, Martin disposed of the slippers.

Defense attorney Dane DeKrey described Martin’s decision to steal the slippers as an attempt to make “one last score,” highlighting Martin’s struggle to move away from his criminal past. Despite this, the temptation for one final act of theft was too strong for Martin to resist.

DeKrey also noted that Martin was unaware of the cultural significance of the ruby slippers and had never watched “The Wizard of Oz.” The connection between Martin and Saliterman remains unclear from the documents released on Sunday.

In the beloved 1939 musical, Dorothy, played by Garland, uses the ruby slippers to return home by clicking her heels together three times and saying, “There’s no place like home.” Only four authentic pairs of these slippers are known to exist today.

The FBI has not disclosed the details of how they located the slippers. In 2017, a man claiming he could help recover the slippers contacted the insurer, demanding a reward higher than the $200,000 offered. The slippers were eventually recovered in a sting operation in Minneapolis in the following year, with their market value estimated at about $3.5 million.

The slippers, which were on loan to the museum from Hollywood memorabilia collector Michael Shaw before being stolen, have been returned to Shaw. They are currently in the possession of an auction house that plans to sell 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.

Judy Garland, born Frances Gumm in 1922, lived in Grand Rapids until she was 4 years old before her family moved to Los Angeles. She passed away in 1969. The Judy Garland Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of Garland and “Wizard of Oz” memorabilia, is located in her childhood home.