An elderly US man has been charged with the theft nearly 20 years ago of a pair of red slippers that Judy Garland wore in the classic film "The Wizard of Oz."
The sequined shoes -- indelibly associated with the character Dorothy clicking them together and saying repeatedly, "there's no place like home" -- were stolen in 2005 from the Judy Garland Museum in the actress's hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
The footwear was recovered in an FBI sting in 2018 but no charges were filed at the time. A million-dollar reward for information leading to an arrest was offered, to no avail.
But on Wednesday, Terry Martin was indicted by a grand jury and charged with one count of theft of major artwork, the US Justice Department office in North Dakota said.
The announcement gave no details of Martin, nor did it say what led police to him as a suspect in the slipper heist, in which a glass display case containing the shoes was shattered in the middle of the night.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper said Martin is 76 and lives 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the Garland museum.
When reached by the paper, Martin was quoted as saying, "gotta go on trial. I don’t want to talk to you."
The slippers are among four pairs that Garland wore during the making of the beloved 1939 film.
They are, the Justice Department said, "widely viewed as among the most recognizable memorabilia in American film history."
It said that at the time of the theft the shoes were insured for $1 million but their current value is around $3.5 million.
When the slippers were recovered in 2018, they were authenticated by the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, which has another of the four genuine pairs.
After the theft, police in Grand Rapids received numerous tips, chief Scott Johnson said in 2018.
One claimed the shoes Dorothy wore on the yellow brick road were nailed to a wall in a roadside diner. Another insisted they were thrown in an iron-ore pit.
"They're more than just a pair of shoes," said Johnson at the time. "They're an enduring symbol of the power of belief."
© 2023 AFP