Stolen 'Wizard of Oz' ruby slippers finally recovered
GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — The ruby slippers stolen from the Judy Garland Museum more than a decade ago have been found.
Jill Sanborn with the FBI's Minneapolis Division, Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson and U.S. Attorney Christopher Myers of North Dakota are expected to announce at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, in Minneapolis that the slippers, stolen from the Grand Rapids museum in August 2005, have been recovered. Museum Director John Kelsch and museum co-founder Jon Miner couldn't be reached on Monday for a comment regarding the announcement.
Over the years, a $1 million reward and a search in the Tioga Mine Pit failed to yield the stolen slippers, one of several pairs worn by Grand Rapids native Judy Garland in the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz."
Only four pairs of the famous ruby slippers are known to be in existence, the News Tribune reported in 2015. Besides the stolen pair, the other three sets reside in the Smithsonian Institution, a Los Angeles museum and a private collection.
The ruby slippers were nearly at the end of a 10-week loan to the Judy Garland Museum when they were stolen sometime in the overnight hours of Aug. 27-28 in 2005. In the days following the theft, police said the emergency exit door window had been broken. A glass case containing the ruby slippers was broken and the slippers were removed, according to police. The museum had an alarm system, but the private security firm that operated it didn't receive a signal that any doors or windows were opened. It was discovered in the days afterward that the alarm system hadn't been set to alert the security firm that night.
Michael Shaw, the slippers' owner who loaned them to the museum, told the News Tribune in 2005 that the theft was "the worst nightmare for me." Kelsch said at the time that he was "devastated" by the theft.
"The slippers are a major attraction for our museum. It's our hope that the slippers can be recovered immediately," Kelsch said in 2005.
But the theft of the ruby slippers has remained an open police case for 13 years.
Divers from the Itasca County Sheriff's Office took a look around the Tioga Mine Pit in 2015, based on the rumor that the slippers were sealed with a weight in Tupperware and tossed into the pit's water. The ruby slippers weren't found during the dive, but a small duffel bag and a partially deteriorated tin can were found and turned over to the Grand Rapids Police Department.
A $1 million reward was offered on the 10th anniversary of the theft in 2015 by an anonymous Arizona-based fan, and the Grand Rapids Police Department received more than 40 tips about the stolen slippers. The leads came from as far away as Arizona, the East Coast and the United Kingdom and included tips that the slippers were seen at garage sales, given away in radio station contests and stapled on a restaurant wall. But the deadline to collect the reward came and went without any credible leads or the return of the ruby slippers.
The Judy Garland Museum also hired Twin Cities private investigator Rob Feeney, who told the News Tribune in 2015, "We're never going to stop looking for these things. I know the public is never going to stop having an interest in it until they're actually recovered."
The stolen ruby slippers were featured in July on the Discovery Channel show "Expedition Unknown," in which host Josh Gates visited the museum during the winter and conducted his own underwater search for the slippers with quips about northern Minnesota's weather.
"Grand Rapids may be freezing, but this case is anything but cold," Gates concluded.