Murdered on an American beach in 1974, the Lady of the Dunes identified by the FBI

Steph Deschamps / November 1, 2022

Nearly half a century later, the FBI and the American justice system have succeeded in identifying and naming a woman who was found killed, with her hands cut off, on a beach on the east coast of the United States in 1974, and whose murderer was never found.
 
The woman who became known as the “Lady of the Dunes” has been identified as Ruth Marie Terry, a woman from the state of Tennessee who was 37 years old at the time of her death, U.S. federal police announced at a news conference near Boston, Massachusetts.
 
“Ruth was a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a wife, a mother,” said FBI Special Agent for the Boston area Joe Bonavolonta, asking anyone with “any information” about the case to pass it on to authorities. The FBI issued a BOLO with four black-and-white or sepia-toned vintage photos of the victim.
  
We are also aware that if we have identified Ruth as the victim of this horrible murder, it does not ease the pain of her family,” he added. For nearly 50 years, investigators have followed the trail of several suspects, without putting a name on the killer.
 
Ruth Marie Terry was found dead on July 26, 1974, her naked body lying in the dunes on a beach in Provincetown, Cape Cod, a strip of land in the Atlantic Ocean popular with summer visitors.
 
According to investigations at the time, she had been killed by a blow to the head, probably several weeks earlier. Her hands were missing, “most likely cut off by her killer so she could not be identified by fingerprints, and her head was almost severed from her body,” added Joe Bonavolonta. No weapon was found near the victim.
 
According to the FBI, the authorities had failed to identify the victim despite neighborhood investigations, the study of “thousands” of files of missing persons, techniques of “facial reconstruction” and sketches, and several exhumations of the body.
 
Finally, it is thanks to the techniques known as genetic genealogy, which combines DNA and genealogical research, that the FBI put an end to the mystery.

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