FBI identifies ‘Lady of the Dunes’ murder victim nearly 50 years on

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Nearly 50 years after her mutilated body was found on a beach in Massachusetts, the FBI has identified the so-called “Lady of the Dunes” using DNA analysis, historical records and genealogical research.

The victim of the brutal 1974 murder -- which was never solved -- was Ruth Marie Terry, who was originally from Tennessee and was 37 at the time of her death, the FBI said Monday at a press conference outside Boston.

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“Ruth was a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, and mother,” FBI special agent Joe Bonavolonta told reporters, urging anyone with information about what he called an “infamous cold case” to come forward.

The FBI issued a new bulletin seeking information about Terry’s murder, which included four pictures of the now identified victim.

“While we have identified Ruth as the victim of this horrific murder, it does not ease the pain for her family -- nothing can -- but hopefully it answers some questions while we continue to look for her killer,” Bonavolonta said.

Since the 1974 murder, investigators followed up on leads with no luck. Though they had several suspects, they never had a name for the victim.

Terry’s body was found on July 26, 1974 on a beach in Provincetown, Massachusetts -- on Cape Cod.

She was killed with a blow to the head, probably several weeks earlier. Her hands had been cut off, presumably to make her more difficult to identify, Bonavolonta explained.

“And her head was nearly severed from her body,” he added.

No weapons were located near the body.

The FBI said authorities were unable to identify the victim despite decades of effort, including the review of thousands of reports about missing persons, questioning of locals and attempts to reconstruct her face using clay models.

“Investigative genealogy” finally bore fruit -- it is the use of DNA evidence combined with public records and traditional genealogy research.

Bonavolonta emphasized that no DNA results in private databases were consulted for the case.

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