lady of the dunes

What We Know About Ruth Marie Terry, the ‘Lady of the Dunes'

The 37-year-old woman from Tennessee was found dead in the dunes in Provincetown, Massachusetts on July 26, 1974

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The Boston Division of the FBI announced Monday that they have identified the "Lady of the Dunes," an previously unidentified murder victim found in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1974, as Ruth Marie Terry.

The news was delivered to her family on Monday morning.

Terry, from Tennessee, was just 37 years old at the time of her death, authorities said.

On July 26, 1974, Terry was found dead in the dunes about a mile east of the Race Point Ranger station inside the Cape Cod National Seashore in Provincetown.

A woman killed on Cape Cod 48 years ago has been identified as Ruth Marie Terry.

How did Ruth Marie Terry die?

Investigators said at the time, the cause of the death was determined to be a blow to the head that occurred an estimated several weeks earlier.

The victim's hands were missing, presumably removed by her killer so she could not be identified through fingerprints, and her head was nearly severed from her body. The left side of her skull had been crushed.

Her naked body was found lying on a beach blanket with her head resting on folded jeans.

There was no sign of struggle, and no weapon was found at the crime scene.

What do we know about Ruth Marie Terry?

Investigators say Terry was born in Tennessee in 1936. She was a daughter, sister, aunt, wife and mother.

She had long, auburn or reddish-blond hair, an athletic build and toenails that were painted pink.

In addition to Tennessee, investigators have determined she had ties to California, Massachusetts and Michigan.

Now that she has been identified as the "Lady of the Dunes," the FBI said investigators and analysts will turn their attention to learning more about her and working to find the person resonsible for her murder.

The FBI released a "Seeking Information Poster" Monday with photos and further information about Terry.

Anyone with information concerning the case is asked to contact either the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or Massachusetts State Police at 1-800-KAPTURE. Tips can be submitted online at or

How did investigators identify Ruth Marie Terry?

The FBI said they identified Terry using investigative genealogy, a method that can generate new leads for unsolved homicides.

Over the past 48 years, investigators with state and Provincetown police worked to identify her through neighborhood canvasses, reviews of thousands of missing persons cases, clay model facial reconstruction and age-regression drawings.

Since the crime was committed, they said many investigative and scientific techniques have bene improved upon or created through new advances in technology. One of those methods is investigative genealogy and combines the use of DNA analysis with traditional genealogy research and historicla records to generate investigative leads for unsolved violent crimes.

The FBI said it received positive confirmation of Terry's identity through the genealogical examination of this cold case.

Investigators clarified, however, that they have not obtained access to any DNA results stored within private databases and they have no interest in doing so.

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