Who was Lady of the Dunes? FBI identifies woman whose mutilated remains were found in Cape Cod in 1974
Warning: This article contains a recollection of crime and can be triggering to some readers. Discretion is advised.
CAPE COD, MASSACHUSETTS: The Boston division of the FBI on Monday, October 31, 2022, announced that the investigation team had identified the 'Lady of the Dunes', a previously unidentified murder victim, whose remains were found in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1974, as Ruth Marie Terry.
The remains were found almost 50 years ago on the Cape Cod National Seashore. Meanwhile, she was the oldest unidentified homicide victim in Massachusetts. The FBI investigation team used investigative genealogy to identify the woman.
Who was 'Lady of the Dunes'?
Leslie Metcalfe, 12, and her parents were hiking back to the Province Lands Visitors Center in Provincetown. This was shortly after the family spent a day at the C-scape dune shack. While enjoying the hiking, they saw a horrible sight of a dead woman who did not have a head or a hand. According to USA Today, the head of the victim's body was separated from the body and was behind the pines for almost a week.
Later, in 1980, the body of the lady was exhumed at the church cemetery for taking blood samples. After 20 years, it was exhumed again for DNA sampling to check if it aligned with the DNA of a woman who claimed to be her mother. In 2019, prosecutors started using a new method, using DNA evidence and genealogy to generate leads. According to New York Post, Terry's skull was crushed on the left side, and she had been sexually assaulted with a wooden object. This heinous act happened soon after she was dead. It was revealed that Terry was just 37 when she was murdered.
What happened during the press conference?
State Police Colonel Christopher Mason said during a press conference on Monday, October 31, 2022, "Today's identification of the Lady of the Dunes is not the end of the case or even the beginning of the end." He added, "But this achievement does mark an important milestone towards identifying Ruth's killer. It represents a critical discovery that makes possible the rest of the work that lies ahead."
He continued, "This is, without a doubt, a major break in the investigation that will hopefully bring all of us closer to identifying the killer." Mason also added, "This is, without a doubt, a major break in the investigation that will hopefully bring us all closer to identifying the killer. Now that we have reached this pivotal point, investigators and analysts will turn their attention to conducting logical investigative steps that include learning more about her, as well as working to identify who is responsible for her murder."
The officer said, "Today, over 48 years after her murder and discovery, we can finally say her name. We know Ruth had family and friends who loved her. And we are aware that this development has not been an easy one for them."
He further said, "Now that we have reached this pivotal point, investigators and analysts will turn their attention to conducting logical investigative steps that include learning more about her as well as working to identify who is responsible for her murder." Christopher also said, "Now, almost half a century since her own voice was silenced in the most horrible of ways, we focus our work entirely on determining what Ruth Marie Terry did in life, on what led her to the easternmost point of our state to the dunes of Provincetown, and to who did this to her."
FBI also released a poster on Monday, October 31, 2022, with pictures of Terry, requesting anyone with information about the case to contact the authorities.