Stolen 'Wizard of Oz' slippers found after 13 years

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

The famous shoes were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 2005 after a thief climbed through a window and broke into their display case.

While details are scarce at this time, law enforcement officials and the Federal Bureau of Investigation say more than a decade after the heist, the slippers have been found.

When it became apparent to the Grand Rapids police "that those involved were in reality attempting to extort the owners of the slippers", authorities requested the FBI's assistance, explained special agent Christopher Dudley, who led the investigation from the FBI's Minneapolis division, during a Tuesday press conference. Minnesota Public Radio says the shoes were insured for $1 million.

One of several pairs of slippers worn by Judy Garland in the movie are seen here in 1996. One was the recovery of the slippers, and two was to find those responsible for the theft and hold them accountable for this particular scheme. When staff returned to the museum on the morning of August 29, 2005, they discovered the plexiglass display case smashed, and the ruby slippers gone.

Thomas said the slippers then went unseen for 30 years until Shaw, acting as a middleman, bought them for someone who meant to sell them to the late actress Debbie Reynolds, but Shaw ended up keeping them and often loaned them for exhibits.

The slippers, one of four surviving pairs from the 1939 classic film "The Wizard of Oz" and thought to be worth millions of dollars, were on loan to the museum. An alarm had been tripped but no signal was sent to police dispatch, museum co-founder John Kelsch said in the documentary. Shaw had rejected an offer by the museum to store in the shoes in a vault each night for fear of the delicate items being handled too much. "We believed that information would eventually surface and knew we were in this for the long haul", says Grand Rapids police sergeant Robert Stein. Law enforcement offered an initial $250,000 reward, and a fan in Arizona offered another $1 million in 2015. In a bit of an interesting twist, it turns out the pair housed at the Smithsonian and the recovered pair are actually mismatched twins.

Johnson said his investigation has been further complicated by the fact that there have been many reproductions made over the years, requiring that the authenticity of the slippers be verified by experts.

The Wizard Of Oz - presented in black and white and colour - was a box office smash and won multiple Academy Awards, including Oscars for best picture and best cinematography. The final pair are owned by a private collector.

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