On a Museum Theft

Ever since we started collecting and displaying valuable art and artifacts, people have been trying to steal these items. One such theft occurred at a museum in Minnesota back in 2005. A Grand Rapids, MN exhibition was drawing good crowds to see the items on display, and local press had drummed up good publicity about the exhibit. The throng had been larger than the small-ish museum could handle that summer, and security was stretched pretty thin. Curator came in one morning to find that two of the most prized items in the collection had been taken. The thief or thieves had smashed the glass on a display and made off with the items. The smashing of the glass had not triggered any alarms, however. Clues were slim to none. The authorities were mystified. The museum failed to have adequate security cameras in place to catch the perpetrator(s). Whoever did the deed made a clean get-away.

Now, let me say that the items taken are today worth upwards of $4,000,000 on the open market, so it makes little sense that so little security surrounded these one-of-a-kind items. And, with no leads, the museum held its breath and hoped that the robber(s) would try to sell the items and get caught or even make an attempt at turning in the expensive stuff at an attempt towards collecting a substantial reward.

And then, finally, in 2018, the authorities caught a break. Someone contacted the insurance money saying that he had information about the theft. That tip on the contact led the museum to be able to recover the stolen goods and restore them to a newly secured (and heavily videoed) place in the museum. The FBI got involved and the person of interest backed off. But no suspect was named, and no one was arrested. The museum didn’t seem to care as long as the priceless artifacts where returned.

That was the end of the story until a recent indictment was made. It seems that a man who lived just down the street from the museum had taken the items almost on a whim. He acted alone, entered the museum after hours, and smashed the display case and took the items to his house. They stayed there, a few blocks away, until the sting operation got them back.

Yes, the grand jury returned an indictment against a Minnesota man named Terry Martin for felony theft of major artwork.

And what priceless things do you think Mr. Martin stole?

Why, nothing less than the red shoes worn by Judy Garland in the film The Wizard of Oz.