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FBI Identity

The Lady of the Dunes, 1974 Provincetown murder victim, identified as Ruth Marie Terry


The Lady of the Dunes, 1974 Provincetown murder victim, identified as Ruth Marie Terry

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Massachusetts’ identity oldest unknown massacre It has been publicly disclosed nearly 50 years after the infamous murder.

Authorities identified the victim as Ruth Marie Terry, a Tennessee-born woman who was 37 at the time of her death, during Monday’s news conference. Federal and state agents shared updates about their investigation into the woman, formerly known as the “Lady of the Dunes” because officials were unable to identify her for decades.

Terry was found dead in the sand dunes about a mile east of Race Point Ranger Station in Cape Cod on July 26, 1974, according to police, who are estimated to have been killed several weeks before the discovery.

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A photo of Ruth Marie Terry next to a composite image of her.

FBI / Provincetown


Although officials determined at the time that Terry had died of head trauma, the particularly violent and dire circumstances of his murder prevented them from identifying him. The killer probably removed his hands to hide the fingerprints and his head was crushed and almost separated from his body.

Investigators determined that in addition to Tennessee, Terry had ties to California, Massachusetts and Michigan. “She was a daughter, sister, aunt, wife and mother,” police said on Monday.

FBI officials partnered with the Massachusetts State Police and the District Attorney’s Office as well as the Provincetown Police to uncover Terry’s identity, which was eventually revealed using investigative genealogy, the FBI said Monday.

Investigative genealogy, also called forensic genealogy, is a technique where law enforcement pulls genetic information from a database to review in the context of a criminal case. Authorities may use DNA analysis in combination with traditional genealogical research and historical records, or private databases, to do this.

Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston unit, said in remarks prepared before the announcement, “This is a unique method that could generate new leads for unsolved murders, as well as help identify unidentified victims.” ” “This is, undoubtedly, a major break in the investigation that, hopefully, will bring us all closer to identifying his killer.”

The agency said Terry’s relatives were contacted by the FBI on Monday before his identity was announced, noting that his family has sought confidentiality at this time. Investigators also noted that despite this new development, the case remains unsolved as officers continue to search for Terry’s killer.

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said police have asked the public to review Terry’s case file and share any relevant suggestions, as they plan to operate under the assumption that The killer is still alive.

Bonavolonta said, “As investigators, cases like this haunt us, and the agencies represented here today are constantly reevaluating and coming up with new investigative strategies to try and move them forward.” have been.” “We also feel that while we have identified Ruth as the victim of this gruesome murder, it doesn’t lessen the pain for her family—nothing can do—but hopefully it opens up some questions.” Will answer while we continue to search for his killer.”

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