FBI Boston Identifies Provincetown 'Lady Of The Dunes' Homicide Victim

Photo: Suzanne Sausville / WBZ NewsRadio

CHELSEA, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — The oldest unidentified homicide victim in Massachusetts is anonymous no longer— authorities say her name was Ruth Marie Terry, a 37-year-old woman that was found dead in the dunes about a mile east of the Race Point Ranger Station in Provincetown in July of 1974, giving her the nickname "Lady of the Dunes."

The Boston Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation held a press conference on Monday to reveal Terry's identity and the call for the public's assistance in gathering information concerning her murder. Officials said that Terry's cause of death was found to be a blow to the head that crushed the left side of her skull, something that appeared to have happened weeks before her body was discovered.

Terry was found lying nude on a beach blanket and a pair of folded jeans, with both of her hands missing off her body. No weapons were found on scene at the time. FBI says they believe they were taken by the killer so that she could not be identified through her fingerprints, adding that her head "was nearly severed from her body."

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Officials say that Terry was from Tennessee, though she had ties to California, Michigan, and Massachusetts.

Photo of Terry taken in the 1960s. Photo: Courtesy of the FBI Boston Division.

Terry's death is being investigated as a homicide by the Massachusetts State Police under the Office of the Cape and Islands District Attorney, with the Provincetown Police Department, and the FBI.

Officials say one of the methods used to identify Terry was Investigative Genealogy, which combines the use of DNA analysis with traditional genealogy research, and historical records, something that could generate investigative leads for other unsolved violent crimes.

Though police emphasized they are not gaining access to any DNA results stored in private databases, nor are they seeking to do so.

Terry photographed in her adolescent years (left) and in her twenties (right).Photo: Photo Courtesy of the FBI Boston Divison.

Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Field Office Joseph Bonavolonta says that investigation is just beginning, and that police intend to find the person responsible nearly half a century following Terry's murder.

"We must now diligently and methodically learn everything we can about Ms. Terry's life: what she did, where she went, who she associated with— all in hope that those details and that timeline will lead us to her killer," Bonavolonta said.

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