Ruby Slippers theft saga: now with revenge porn

The saga of the Ruby Slippers stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 2005 has just gotten even weirder. First 76-year-old Terry Martin admitted to the theft and said in his plea agreement that he thought the shoes were festooned with real rubies rather than sequins and glass beads. Now a second man has been charged with the theft plus another count of witness tampering for having threatened to release a sex tape of a woman if she told authorities he had the shoes.

The second man, Jerry Hal Saliterman, also 76 years old, was busted after a search of his home on December 20th, 2023. When the FBI showed up at his door with a search warrant in hand, Saliterman admitted that he had stolen goods in his home, but insisted they were all the products of old crimes. You’ll be shocked to read that statement was less than fully honest.

In a padlocked, fenced-off area under the stairs, agents found name-brand electronics, digital grills and wine pourers, all new and still in their boxes. A storage shed out back had expensive artworks. The raid also found disposable food storage containers full of an estimate $30,000 cash wrapped with foil to hide their contents.

A woman involved with the crimes confessed to the FBI that Saliterman led a retail theft ring that operated undeterred for 15 years, hitting such august locations as William Sonoma and the Apple Store hundreds of times each. The theft ring ceased operations only in 2021 or 2022.

It was this woman who knew about the Ruby Slippers because Saliterman had shown them to her in a grocery bag. He then put them in a plastic tub and buried them in the yard for seven years. According to the indictment, Saliterman had the shoes from the theft in 2005 until their recovery in 2018. Apparently he and his gang put the shoes in an ultraviolet sanitizer cabinet in a risible attempt to destroy any DNA evidence they left on them. He also threatened the woman with revenge porn and that he would “take her down with him” should she tell the authorities what she knew.

Saliterman has not yet entered a plea, but his attorney claimed he was not guilty. The FBI has not divulged the details of the investigation that located the shoes, just that they were recovered in Minneapolis in July 2018, but given the timeline in the indictment, presumably he kept them hidden until the very end.

While the perpetrators wend their ways through the court system, the Ruby Slippers were returned to their owner, collector Michael Shaw, last month. Shaw had loaned them to the museum where they were on display at the time of the theft and now that he has them back, he has decided to sell them. The shoes will be exhibited in Los Angeles, New York, London and Tokyo before going under the hammer at Heritage Auctions in December. The Judy Garland Museum and the Minnesota Historical Society are itching to acquire them for Judy Garland’s hometown museum, but with a pre-sale estimate of $3-5 million, they’re going to need a huge infusion of cash to beat the private bidders.

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