FBI returns ‘Oz’ ruby slippers to owner in secret ceremony

people stand around the shoe
From left to right: Brian Chanes from Heritage Auctions, ruby slippers owner Michael Shaw, Special Agent Christopher Dudley of FBI Minneapolis, Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Andy Morgan and FBI Minneapolis Special Agent in Charge Alvin M. Winston, Sr., as Shaw is reunited with the ruby slippers in Grand Rapids.
Courtesy of the Minneapolis office of the FBI

In a secret ceremony in February, FBI agents returned a pair of ruby slippers stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids in 2005 to the Los Angeles collector who owns them.

This latest twist in the tale of the sparkly shoes came to light after a federal grand jury indicted a second person in connection with the theft.

Jerry Hal Saliterman of Crystal made his court appearance Friday in St. Paul on charges of theft of a major artwork and witness tampering. 

The indictment, which was unsealed Sunday, does not include much detail about Saliterman’s alleged role in the theft, only that he “received, concealed and disposed of an object of cultural heritage.” Prosecutors also allege that Saliterman threatened to “distribute sex tapes” of a woman in an effort to prevent her “from communicating information to the FBI relating to the theft.”

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

After the hearing, defense attorney John Brink said his client “hasn’t done anything wrong,” and plans to enter a not guilty plea.

The indictment does not detail how Saliterman may have been associated with Terry Jon Martin, 77, who pleaded guilty in 2023 to stealing the shoes. In January a judge sentenced Martin, who’s receiving hospice care for a terminal illness, to time served.

Authorities said that Martin’s extensive criminal history and the fact that he lived just outside Grand Rapids, Garland’s hometown, led the FBI to Martin.

In a phone interview with MPR News on Monday morning, Judy Garland Museum founding director and curator John Kelsch said the FBI returned the slippers to their owner, Michael Shaw, in a ceremony at the museum on Feb. 1.

Ruby slippers is seen
Ruby slippers once worn by Judy Garland in the "The Wizard of Oz," are displayed.
Courtesy of the Minneapolis office of the FBI

Kelsch said that the FBI had planned to go public with the news of the shoes’ return but then backtracked and told museum staff and others involved to keep quiet.

“It was going to be released that week or around that time,” Kelsch said. “And then the FBI put an embargo on the news release and informed us not to say a word. Which we did not do. We didn’t tell anybody. They are even today telling us that it is still a very active case.”

In a news release Monday, the FBI’s Minneapolis field office acknowledged that agents returned the shoes to Shaw in “a restoration of justice, healing the wounds inflicted on both Shaw and the museum itself.”

Kelsch noted that the Judy Garland Museum never owned the slippers. Shaw lent them to the museum four separate times starting in 1989 for the 50th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz.” It was during this final loan in 2005 that Martin broke in, smashed the display case with a sledgehammer, and took the shoes. He left only a single red sequin behind.

Shaw filed an insurance claim and was eventually reimbursed for his loss. Kelsch said that Shaw bought the shoes back from the insurance company last month for an undisclosed amount and placed them in the care of Heritage Auctions. Shaw could not be reached for comment.

The Dallas-based auction house said in its own news release Monday that it plans to take the shoes on an “international tour,” with stops in Los Angeles, New York, London and Tokyo before putting them up for bid in December.

Kelsch said he’s interested in putting the slippers on display in Grand Rapids permanently, but under much tighter security.

A bill introduced in the Minnesota Senate last year would set aside an unspecified amount of money from the Legacy Amendment for the state to purchase the shoes. Federal prosecutors have estimated the slippers’ market value to be about $3.5 million.

The proposal would require that they be displayed publicly. That bill is scheduled to be heard Tuesday in a state Senate committee.

Kelsch says bringing the slippers to Minnesota would be “rocket fuel” for the state’s tourism marketing campaign.

“The most asked question at the desk is: Tell us about what happened.”

Kelsch said he expects that the museum will have a ruby slipper crime exhibit in the future.