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After Nearly 50 Years, P-town’s Lady of the Dunes Gets a Name

Lady of the Dunes

The homicide victim had been found nude with her hands cut off.

The nearly 50-year mystery of the famed Lady of the Dunes has been solved.

Her body was discovered on July 26, 1974 in Provincetown, making her the oldest unidentified homicide victim in Massachusetts.. Twelve-year-old Leslie Metcalfe and her parents were hiking after a day at a dune shack when they spotted something strange in the scrub pines.

The nude body was lying on half a beach towel, as if she had been sharing it with a companion, her head resting on folded Wrangler jeans and a blue bandana.

A blow to her head had left her nearly decapitated. But her reddish hair was still visible. Her hands were missing, presumably to avoid fingerprints. She had extensive dental work, and her toenails were painted pink.

The case baffled decades of investigators.

That is, until now.

On Monday, October 31, 2022, the “Lady” was finally identified as Ruth Marie Terry, 37, of Tennessee. She had connections to California, Michigan, and Massachusetts.

According to Joseph Bonavolonta, a special FBI agent with the Boston bureau, Terry “was a daughter, sister, aunt, wife and mother.”

The identification was made through “investigative genealogy,” a blend of DNA analysis and genealogical research.

There had been many previous attempts to identify the Lady of the Dunes. In 1980, and then again in 2000, the body was exhumed from St. Peter’s Cemetery in Provincetown.

Facial composites were made to aid in the investigation.

As some of Terry’s teeth were removed, a technique used by Whitey Bulger, some have speculated a connection to the Boston gangster.

Another theory is that the victim was an extra in Jaws, which was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 1974.

A reporter brought up this theory to Bonavolonta on Monday, but Bonavolonta dodged the question.

“Today’s identification is not the end of the case, or even the beginning of the end,” said Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason.

Those with information should reach out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Massachusetts State Police.

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