Private investigators who have re-opened a famous Minnesota theft case say the iconic ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the movie "The Wizard of Oz" are still in the state.
One of Hollywood's most coveted pieces of memorabilia, now valued at an estimated $2 million, the glittery slippers were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 2005 in a relatively simple burglary.
Despite widespread media attention, the shoes were never found.
Leads dried up, and the case has been cold for years. But the museum hired the Minneapolis investigative agency Alexander & Associates last summer to re-open the investigation, and two investigators have made several important breaks in the case, spokesman Rob Feeney told BringMeTheNews Friday. Contrary to initial police suspicions, the red-sequined, size-5 1/2 shoes were not spirited across state lines, he said.
"We firmly believe the slippers are still in Minnesota," he said.
Further, the investigators are confident they have identified two thieves responsible, both "local males" between the ages of 18 and 25, Feeney said, declining to specifically identify them. The ages of the two indicate they were just teens, or even younger, at the time of the theft eight years ago. Feeney said he could not comment yet on whether the investigators had spoken to the two men.
Feeney said that, for now, he also could not comment on motive. Was it just for the thrill of it, or for money?
For years, movie buffs, memorabilia collectors and Garland fans have speculated that the thief was likely an obsessed fanatic who stole the slippers, or arranged to have them stolen.
The shoes are owned by a fan named Michael Shaw, who had loaned them to the museum. He later received an insurance settlement. The robbery was not sophisticated – at about 2 a.m. on Aug. 28, 2005, someone broke a rear-door window at the museum, smashed the slippers' display case ... and disappeared. No fingerprints were left and a security camera was not operating.
The slippers were one of four pairs used in production of the movie. You can see photos of the stolen slippers, inscribed with Judy Garland's name, here. Another pair is one of the most asked-about artifacts in the Smithsonian Museum's vast collections.
As for the stolen pair, Feeney said his agency is hoping to get more help from Grand Rapids police, who led the initial investigation. "We really would benefit from all of us just cooperating together. It would assure a quicker recovery," Feeney said.
Still, the agency is "confident" investigators can have the slippers home by the movie's 75th anniversary next year, Feeney said. There's still a $250,000 reward being offered in the case, he said.
"This case needs to be solved," Feeney said. "It just means so much to so many different people on so many levels."