Her case was the oldest, unidentified homicide victim in Massachusetts — and, at one point, was even the subject of a Jaws conspiracy theory.
The “Lady of the Dunes,” who was found murdered in the dunes of Provincetown, Cape Cod way back in 1974, has finally been identified.
On Monday, the Boston Division of the FBI announced that after 48 years “the oldest, unidentified victim in Massachusetts” has been identified as Ruth Marie Terry. She would have been 37 at the time of her death.
Terry was dubbed “Lady of the Dunes” for almost half a century after her body was discovered on July 26, 1974. Her murder was particularly grisly, as she suffered a blow to the head, which was nearly severed from her body. Her hands were also missing, which authorities believed was done so she could not be IDed via fingerprints.
There was no weapon located nearby her body, which was found nude, facedown atop a beach blanket, with her head on a pair of folded jeans.
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Terry — whose body had been exhumed at least three times in the past — was identified using investigative genealogy. Per the FBI, this approach “combines the use of DNA analysis with traditional genealogy research and historical records to generate investigative leads for unsolved violent crimes.”
Before this break, authorities said they “worked tirelessly” to identify the victim via “neighborhood canvasses; reviews of thousands of missing-person cases; clay model facial reconstruction, and age-regression drawings,” to no avail.
In a press conference earlier today, FBI Boston Special Agent in Charge Joseph Bonavolonti called Terry’s murder “a brutal death” and said “cases like this one haunt us.” He confirmed the victim was “a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, and mother,” who was born in Tennessee and had ties to Massachusetts, California and Michigan. The FBI delivered the news to her family earlier today.
“We also realize that while we have identified Ruth as the victim of this horrific murder, it does not ease the pain for her family — nothing can — but hopefully it answers some questions while we continue to look for her killer,” he added, before asking the public for assistance and delivering a warning to “every murderer, rapist, and violent offender out there.”
“The FBI and our law enforcement partners will not give up,” he said. “It may take years, or even decades, but we are determined and we will be dogged in our search for justice for victims and their families.”
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The “Lady of the Dunes” mystery was a pretty high profile case, attracting a number of conspiracy theories throughout the years. Along with a theory mobster Whitey Bulger was behind the murder was another which came from Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill.
In 2015, he wrote a blog post speculating the woman with a “startling resemblance” to police sketches could have appeared as an extra in “Jaws” — a theory which found renewed interest in 2018 thanks to the “Inside Jaws” podcast.
Anyone with information on the case has been asked to contact the FBI’s toll-free tipline at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or the Massachusetts State Police at 1-800-KAPTURE (1-800-527-8873) or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov or [email protected]
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