Former Mobster Who Stole Judy Garland's “Wizard of Oz” Ruby Slippers Saw Theft as 'One Last Score'

"The thought of a ‘final score’ kept him up at night," Terry Jon Martin's defense attorney wrote ahead of his Jan. 29 sentencing

<p>Mgm/Kobal/Shutterstock</p> Judy Garland and Ray Bolger in


Judy Garland and Ray Bolger in 'The Wizard of Oz'

The man who pleaded guilty to stealing the ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz has revealed his motive behind the theft.

On Sunday, the Associated Press reported that Terry Jon Martin, stole the slippers from Minnesota's Judy Garland Museum in 2005 after an unidentified former mob associate encouraged him to commit "one last score" with the theft and told him the shoes were adorned with real jewels.

Martin, 76, was indicted by the U.S. District Court in Minnesota and charged with theft of major artwork in May 2023. Martin, whom the AP identified as an "aging reformed mobster," pleaded guilty to the charge in October, per a U.S. Attorney's Office, District of North Dakota press release issued at the time.

The man's defense attorney, Dane DeKrey, wrote in a new memo ahead of Martin's expected Jan. 29 sentencing hearing that Martin initially "declined the invitation to participate" in the 2005 heist. He had previously been convicted in 1988 on a felony charge of receiving stolen goods and had not committed a crime since his 1996 release from prison, per the AP.

"But old habits die hard, and the thought of a ‘final score’ kept him up at night,” the defense attorney wrote, per the AP. “After much contemplation, Terry had a criminal relapse and decided to participate in the theft.”

Related: 12 Gorgeous Throwback Photos of Judy Garland in Her Prime

<p>Dan Kraker/Minnesota Public Radio via AP</p> Terry Jon Martin (center) on Oct. 13, 2023

Dan Kraker/Minnesota Public Radio via AP

Terry Jon Martin (center) on Oct. 13, 2023

When Martin pleaded guilty in October, he said he wanted to sell rubies from the glass slippers — one of four known authentic pairs of the shoes Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz — after he smashed a museum door and display case during the theft. Martin testified that he disposed of the slippers fewer than two days after stealing them, once he was informed the rubies were made of glass, per the AP. Martin was not familiar with their cultural significance and had never seen The Wizard of Oz prior to the theft, the outlet reported.

At the time the slippers were stolen, they were insured for $1 million. The North Dakota U.S. Attorney's Office wrote in an October press release that the shoes are currently valued at $3.5 million.

Jeff Baenen/AP Photo The ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in 'The Wizard of Oz'
Jeff Baenen/AP Photo The ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in 'The Wizard of Oz'

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The slippers' whereabouts were unknown until 2017, when Grand Rapids, Minnesota police began coordinating with the FBI on the case. The FBI announced via a press release that its agents had recovered the slippers in Minneapolis in September 2018 while investigating a scheme to defraud and extort the Markel Corporation, which owns the slippers. The Judy Garland Museum was exhibiting the slippers on loan at the time of the 2005 theft, as CBS reported in 2018.

Related: 'The Wizard of Oz' 's Ruby Slippers Became Iconic 80 Years Ago — And for Years, One Pair Was Lost

<p>Silver Screen Collection/Getty</p> Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Judy Garland and Bert Lahr in 'The Wizard of Oz'

Silver Screen Collection/Getty

Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Judy Garland and Bert Lahr in 'The Wizard of Oz'

Per the AP, both Martin's defense attorney and prosecutors are recommending that Martin be sentenced to time served for the crime because he is in hospice care. His life expectancy is fewer than six months, uses an oxygen tank at all times and was in a wheelchair at his most recent court appearance, the outlet reported.

The three other pairs of slippers used in The Wizard of Oz are owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They are housed at its museum in Los Angeles, the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. and with an anonymous private collector.

Martin's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 29.

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