Published: September 11, 2018
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. – A pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and stolen from the actress’ namesake museum in Minnesota more than a decade ago has been recovered, the FBI announced on September 5.
The iconic sequined shoes, known as the “traveling pair” – one of at least four pairs used in the film that are still in existence – were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn., in 2005 and recovered earlier this summer during a sting operation. But the case is far from over.
“From the outset,” said special agent Christopher Dudley, who led the investigation from the FBI’s Minneapolis Division, “our top priority was the safe recovery of the slippers.” Although multiple suspects have been identified, Dudley said, “we are still working to ensure that we have identified all parties involved in both the initial theft and the more recent extortion attempt for their return. This is very much an active investigation.”
At a press conference in Minneapolis to announce the recovery, the FBI, along with the Grand Rapids Police Department, asked for the public’s assistance. “There are certainly people out there who have additional knowledge regarding both the theft and the individuals responsible for concealing the slippers all these years.” Dudley said. “We are asking that you come forward.”
Judy Garland, who played Dorothy Gale in the classic fairy tale film enjoyed by generations of moviegoers around the world, wore several pairs of the red slippers during the movie’s production, dancing her way down the yellow brick road, and at the story’s end, clicking her heels three times and repeating, “There’s no place like home.” The slippers are widely considered to be one of the most recognizable pieces of memorabilia in American film history and are estimated to be worth several million dollars.
The star’s childhood house in Grand Rapids was turned into a museum in 1975 and remains a repository of The Wizard of Oz artifacts and memorabilia. The slippers disappeared from there in the early morning hours of August 28, 2005, and the crime has weighed heavily on the community, whose identity is proudly associated with Garland’s birthplace.
Despite a vigorous investigation by local authorities at the time, the slippers were not located and no arrests were made. When the theft occurred, said Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Scott Johnson, “the thieves not only took the slippers, they took a piece of history that will be forever connected to Grand Rapids and one of our city’s most famous children.”
In the summer of 2017, 12 years after the theft, an individual approached the company that insured the slippers, saying he had information about the shoes and how they could be returned. “When it became apparent that those involved were, in reality, attempting to extort the owners of the slippers,” Dudley explained, Grand Rapids police requested the FBI’s assistance. After nearly a yearlong investigation – with assistance from the FBI’s Art Crime Team, the FBI Laboratory and field offices in Chicago, Atlanta and Miami – the slippers were recovered during an undercover operation in Minneapolis.
Anyone with additional information regarding the theft of the ruby slippers or the extortion plot is encouraged to contact the FBI at 800-225-5324 or submit information online at tips.fbi.gov
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