Judy Garland's Stolen Ruby Slippers Recovered By FBI After 13 Years

Thirteen years ago, a pair of ruby slippers from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz were stolen from a Minnesota museum. Now, the FBI says the search is over.

It was a classic smash-and-grab in August 2005: Some unknown thief or thieves broke in through the back door of the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn., and swiped the slippers, reportedly leaving nothing but broken glass and a single red sequin in their wake.

One long-running theory held that local kids had stolen the slippers, then got scared and threw them into a nearby abandoned mine pit. A dive team searched the Tioga Mine Pit in 2015, but came up empty.

The missing slippers are two different sizes and may be the mates of a mismatched pair at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, The New York Times reports. In 2016, the Smithsonian launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund preservation work on the pair there. The museum notes that five pairs of ruby slippers made for the movie are known to have survived.

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Neither the Garland museum's alarm system or video surveillance system were working at the time of the 2005 theft, which Newsweek reported led some people to suspect it was an inside job. A memorabilia collector named Michael Shaw had loaned the slippers to the museum, which is located in a house where Garland grew up — and he said he was among those questioned by authorities.

"Other people speculated that Shaw had paid someone to steal the shoes—perhaps replicas—so that he could collect insurance," according to the magazine. Minnesota Public Radio says the shoes were insured for $1 million.

The insurance company sued Shaw, the museum and its director to avoid making that payout; Newsweek reports the parties settled in 2007, with Shaw receiving $800,000.

Despite the slippers' evident value and desirability, several pairs sat for years unnoticed in storage on the MGM lot. In 1970, a costumer named Kent Warner found them and sold off several pairs of the slippers. He sold the pair to Shaw for $2,000, along with one of Dorothy's dresses, a witch's hat and a Munchkin outfit.

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The FBI has a press conference scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Investigators haven't said whether the slippers were clicked together three times before finding their way home.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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