MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — FBI investigators followed the yellow brick road to recover one of the most important pieces of movie memorabilia: Dorothy’s ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Someone stole the shoes from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids in 2005. Authorities recovered them during a sting operation in Minneapolis a few weeks ago.
“Not only were these slippers stolen, but the memories of a lot of Americans were stolen in 2005. We hope today that we give those memories back,” said FBI Minneapolis Special Agent in Charge Jill Sanborn.
Grand Rapids police fielded dozens of tip over the past 13 years.
“Everything from, ‘They are nailed to a wall in a roadside diner in Missouri,’ to, ‘I was with my boyfriend when he threw them in a water-filled iron ore pit,’” said Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson.
Police called in the FBI last year when a credible tip led them out of state. The road led investigators to an extortion scheme. They executed search warrants in Florida and Minnesota.
Authorities found the iconic movie memorabilia during a sting operation in Minneapolis in July.
“These types of offenses not only deprives the owner of the property, but all of us,” said Chris Myers, U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota.
Four known pairs exist. The recovered slippers were sent to the Smithsonian, where conservators examined them and determined the ruby slippers were authentic.
People who live in the Iron Range town experienced relief upon learning of their return.
“Oh, we cherish them, they’re very important to our town,” said resident Becky Markwardt.
“We always hoped this would happen, and sure enough through the grace of God, it happened,” said museum board member Jon Miner.
The slippers will stay with the FBI for now as evidence. Investigators said they have identified suspects, but no one is under arrest. They are looking for information about the initial theft and the extortion plot.
The dollar value of the ruby slippers is estimated to be in the millions.