Dorothy's ruby slippers have been found, the FBI says

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A pair of red sequined slippers from the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz" has been found, 13 years after being stolen from a Minnesota museum

(CNN) — A pair of red sequined slippers from the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz" has been found, 13 years after being stolen from a Minnesota museum, law enforcement said Tuesday.

But the investigation continues into who's responsible for the 2005 theft of the cherished piece of movie memorabilia

"We reached the first goal, the recovery, and it's a great day," North Dakota United States Attorney Christopher Myers said Tuesday. "But we're not done."

The slippers are one of four known pairs that actress Judy Garland wore in the classic film as Dorothy. They were recovered in an undercover operation in Minneapolis this summer, the FBI said.

"There's a certain romance in these types of schemes, sometimes sophistication, but at the end of the day it's a theft," Myers said.

Jill Sanborn, special agent in charge of the Minneapolis Division of the FBI, unveiled the faded slippers in a covered case during a news conference.

"These types of offenses not only deprive the owner of their property but all of us," Myers said. "This type of cultural property is important to us as a society. It reflects culture, it holds our memories, it reflects our values."

 

'We were literally crying'

 

The shoes disappeared sometime between August 27 and 28 in 2005 from the Judy Garland Museum in the actress' hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

A burglar broke in through the museum's back door, the Grand Rapids Police Department said in a news release. The thief smashed a glass case resting on a wooden podium in the museum's gallery and stole the slippers, which were insured for $1 million (₱53.6 million).

"The alarm did not sound to a central dispatch station. No fingerprints were left behind," the statement said.

Investigators had no evidence, aside from a single sequin that had fallen off one of the slippers, Stein said in the statement. Tips flowed in over the years — including one from a psychic just last month — but they led either nowhere or to counterfeits.

Police worried that the culprit might destroy the slippers if she or he sensed police were closing in, so investigators declined to dispel rumors, including one that local rapscallions had tossed them in the Mississippi River or into an ore pit in the area.

"We believed that information would eventually surface and knew we were in this for the long haul," said Sgt. Robert Stein, of the Grand Rapids Police Department.

Museum co-founder Jon Miner told CNN affiliate KQDS in 2015 that the theft was "the biggest thing that ever happened to our museum."

"We were literally crying," he told the station.

 

Museum denied rumors of inside job

 

Rumors have swirled among residents and memorabilia collectors about where they could be. Valued at $2 million (₱107.2 million) to $3 million (₱160.8 million) and thought to be worth as much as $5 million (₱268.1 million) at auction, they would be hard to sell on the black market — and even harder to hide.

"Whoever has them, illicitly, has their hands full with them," journalist Rhys Thomas said in the 2016 documentary, "The Slippers."

"One way or another, over the course of time, the shoes will out you," said Thomas, who tracked down several pairs of the famed shoes for a Los Angeles Times article published in 1988.

Memorabilia collector Michael Shaw loaned the slippers to the Judy Garland Museum for Grand Rapids' annual "Wizard of Oz" festival in 2005. Shaw rejected the museum's offer to store them in a vault each night because he didn't want people handling the delicate shoes by moving them daily, he said in the documentary.

"But most importantly, I was assured that the museum had security," Shaw said in the film.

Museum staff arrived in the morning to find the shoes missing from the smashed glass case. An alarm had been tripped but no signal was sent to police dispatch, museum co-founder John Kelsch said in the documentary. Miner and Kelsch vehemently denied rumors of an inside job.

"We're the ones that want to find them because they were entrusted to us," Miner said.

"Our people, they love the museum. They wouldn't have done that. These are honest people," Kelsch said.

 

Multiple pairs

 

Ten years later, the museum worked with the Itasca County Sheriff's Dive Team to address the theory that someone had thrown the slippers in a nearby lake. During the 40th Annual "Wizard of Oz" Festival, divers scoured the depths of the Tioga Mine Pit Lake but came up empty-handed.

In the documentary, Shaw says he bought the shoes from a Hollywood costume designer who found them in MGM Studios' backlot property in Culver City, California. As the story goes, Kent Warner found several pairs on a dusty shelf and took one to the famed MGM Studios auction in 1970. He kept the rest for himself — the exact number is not clear — selling them off to collectors, including Shaw.

Meanwhile, a Tennessee schoolteacher won another pair in a contest in 1940. She sold them at auction in 1988 to a private collector for $165,000 (₱8.8 million).

Another pair has been on display in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington since 1979. In 2016, the organization launched an online campaign to raise money to restore their luster.

In 2012, Leonardo DiCaprio led a group of donors in purchasing a pair to be displayed at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, set to open this year in Los Angeles.

This story was first published on CNN.com "Dorothy's ruby slippers have been found, the FBI says"