Judy Garland’s Missing Ruby Slippers Have Been Found, Authorities Report
The ruby slippers stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids in August 2005 have been found.
The Minneapolis division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies made that announcement Tuesday afternoon. The slippers were one of several pairs worn by Garland in the landmark 1939 movie, “The Wizard of Oz.”
Only four such pairs are known to exist. A release from the FBI said the slippers were found in a sting operation in Minneapolis earlier this summer.
Jill Sanborn, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis division, said a new tip received last summer helped lead to finding the slippers.
“There were lots of interviews and several searches, only to lead this summer to the recovery of those slippers,” she said.
Sanborn stated the matter remains an ongoing investigation and authorities are asking for help from the public in locating those who took them.
“If you know something about where those slippers have been the last 13 years, we hope you share it with us,” Sanborn said.
Grand Rapids police chief Scott Johnson said the thieves didn’t just steal the slippers. In a sense, they stole history as well.
“They took a piece of history that will be forever connected to Grand Rapids and one of our city’s most famous children,” he said in the release.
The release reported an individual approached the company that insured the slippers last summer, saying he had information about the slippers and how they could be returned.
FBI agent Christopher Dudley, who led the investigation, said in the release that “when it became apparent that those involved were in reality attempting to extort the owners of the slippers,” Grand Rapids police requested FBI assistance. The FBI’s art crime team, laboratory and field offices in Chicago, Atlanta and Miami were all involved in the investigation.
A sting operation was set up. Agents developed the case and conducted a raid a few months in Minneapolis and recovered the sought-after slippers.
“There’s a certain romance in these type of schemes and sometimes even sophistication, but at the end of the day it’s a theft,” Chris Myers, U.S. Attorney of North Dakota, said.
Rhys Thomas is an author who wrote a book about the slippers history and he’s a collectibles expert. Thomas was invited to the reveal by law enforcement.
“They’re a very potent and powerful symbol of belief…and as pieces of memorabilia come up for sale and garner huge prices and now become investments, that’s the difference. These things are considered investments rather than curiosity,” he said.
Police Chief Scott Johnson is with the Grand Rapids Police Department and has been relentless in the pursuit of recovering the star-studded heels.
“Several months ago, our police department received information that appeared to have more credibility and took us outside the state of Minnesota,” Johnson said.
Johnson turned to the FBI, which has interstate jurisdiction for help. Together, investigators searched properties in Florida and Minnesota, people of interest were identified and interviewed, but not arrested. An undercover sting was set up earlier this summer. Agents found what they were after in Minneapolis, but declined to specify where.
Once recovered, the release said the FBI’s Minneapolis office transported the slippers to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. – where another of the four known pairs of ruby slippers has been on display since 1979 – for analysis and comparison.
The Smithsonian said its pair of slippers will be back on public display on Oct. 19. They haven’t been displayed since April 23 of last year because of conservation work.