FBI Boston Identifies ‘Lady of the Dunes’ Cape Cod Homicide Victim Cold Case
CHELSEA — Officials from the FBI's Boston bureau have announced the identity of a murder victim known as the 'Lady of the Dunes,' a woman found dead on Cape Cod in 1974 — the oldest unidentified homicide victim in Massachusetts.
Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston bureau Joseph Bonavolonta said at a press conference Monday morning that the body has been identified as Ruth Marie Terry, from Tennessee.
She was just 37 years old at the time of her murder, Bonavolonta said.
Officials said they are now looking for tips or any information from the public that could help lead to Terry's killer.
Terry's body was discovered lying prone in the Race Point Dunes at the Cape Cod National Seashore in Provincetown in July 1974.
She was born in Tennessee in 1936, officials said. Terry had several relatives and had ties to California, Massachusetts, and Michigan.
Terry was killed from a blow to the head thought to have occurred several weeks prior to the discovery of her body.
Her hands were missing — believed to have been removed by the killer to prevent her identification through fingerprinting — and her head was nearly severed, with the left side of her skull crushed.
Her body was found lying naked on a beach blanket with her head on folded jeans.
No weapon was found at the scene, according to officials.
"It was a brutal death," Bonavolonta said. "And for the last 48 years, investigators with the Massachusetts State Police, and Provincetown Police, have worked tirelessly to identify her."
Bonavolonta said the identification was made thanks to investigative genealogy, which combines DNA analysis with historical genealogy research.
But he emphasized that investigators "are not getting access to any DNA results stored within private databases."
Officials said it was a "major break" in the investigation into her murder.
"Family notifications were literally made just a couple of hours ago," Bonavolonta said after the conference.
Now that she has been identified, investigators will be looking into her history to try and find her murderer.
"The FBI and our entire law enforcement community in Massachusetts will never give up," said Bonavolonta. "It may take years, or even decades in some cases, but we are determined, and we will be dogged in our search for justice for victims and their families."
He thanked FBI agents and analysts in the bureau's Lakeville office for their hard work, as well as state police and other law enforcement partners.
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