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“Dune Lady” Identified Almost 50 Years After Murder | WGN 720 Radio

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. (AP) — Authorities have used exploratory genealogy to identify a woman whose mutilated body was found on Cape Cod National Seashore nearly 50 years ago, solving the “Dune Lady” mystery that has stumped authorities for decades.

The woman has been identified as Ruth Marie Terry of Tennessee, who was 37 when she was killed, officials said Monday. The news was delivered to her family Monday morning, according to Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston Division.

Authorities hope the woman’s identity will help solve one of Massachusetts’ most notorious unsolved murders.

Her body was found in the dunes in Provincetown in July 1974. She was lying naked on a beach blanket with her hands cut off — so she couldn’t be identified by fingerprints, officials believe. Her skull was crushed and she was nearly decapitated. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head, and authorities believe she was killed weeks before her body was found.

“This is without a doubt a major breakthrough in the investigation that will hopefully bring us all closer to identifying the killer,” Bonavalonta said.

Authorities identified her through a genealogy investigation, using DNA analysis combined with traditional genealogical research and historical records, Bonavalonta said. Officials have released few details about Terry, except that she was a daughter, sister, aunt, wife and mother and had ties to California, Massachusetts and Michigan.

“Now that we’ve reached this pivotal point, investigators and analysts will turn their attention to conducting logical investigative activities that include learning more about her and working to identify those responsible for her murder,” Bonavalonta said.

She was the oldest unidentified homicide victim in Massachusetts. Authorities have spent decades trying to identify her and her killer, exhuming her remains, reconstructing her face on a clay model and releasing age-old pictures of her face. Investigators have long said she had long red or brown hair and that they believed she was between 20 and 40 years old.

The FBI has released a flyer with Terry’s photos and is asking anyone with information about the case to contact authorities.


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