Second man charged in 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 recent indictment has brought to light the charging of a second individual in the 2005 theft of the iconic ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz.” This revelation was made public on Sunday.

Jerry Hal Saliterman, a 76-year-old resident of Crystal, Minnesota, faces charges of major artwork theft and witness tampering. During his initial court appearance in St. Paul’s U.S. District Court on Friday, Saliterman did not enter a plea.

The stolen slippers, known for their sequins and glass beads, were taken from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Garland’s birthplace. They remained lost until the FBI recovered them in 2018, nearly two decades after their disappearance.

According to the indictment, between August 2005 and July 2018, Saliterman was involved in the concealment and disposal of the slippers, fully aware they were stolen. He is accused of threatening to release a compromising tape of a woman to silence her 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 to U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Cowan Wright. However, he refrained from commenting on the allegations.

The details of the case were kept under wraps during the court session, with the magistrate ordering the indictment’s unsealing on Friday, though it wasn’t publicly accessible until Sunday.

John Brink, Saliterman’s attorney, maintained his client’s innocence post-hearing, stating, “He’s not guilty. He hasn’t done anything wrong.” Saliterman, released on his own recognizance, chose not to comment further.

Terry Jon Martin, another 76-year-old implicated in the theft, admitted guilt to the theft of a major artwork in October, recounting his break-in at the museum. Citing health issues, he was sentenced in January to time served.

Martin’s attorney revealed in court documents that Martin was persuaded by an old associate with mob ties that the slippers’ jewels had to be real to match their $1 million insured value.

At an October hearing, Martin expressed his initial intention to sell what he believed were real rubies from the slippers. However, upon learning the rubies were fake, he disposed of the slippers.

Defense attorney Dane DeKrey highlighted Martin’s struggle with his criminal past and his unawareness of the slippers’ cultural significance, noting Martin had never seen “The Wizard of Oz.”

The connection between Martin and Saliterman remains unclear from the documents released on Sunday.

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

The FBI’s recovery of the slippers in a 2018 sting operation in Minneapolis remains partly a mystery. The slippers, valued at about $3.5 million, were initially loaned to the museum by collector Michael Shaw.

Garland, born Frances Gumm in 1922 in Grand Rapids, moved to Los Angeles with her family at age 4. She passed away in 1969. The Judy Garland Museum boasts the largest collection of Garland and “Wizard of Oz” memorabilia in the world.