Cape Cod Murder Victim ‘Lady of the Dunes’ Was Identified by the FBI


  • A woman who was found dead on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in 1974 has finally been identified, the FBI said.
  • Ruth Marie Terry, also known as the “Lady of the Dunes,” was only 37 years old at the time of her death.
  • Prior to the breakthrough, she was the oldest, unidentified homicide victim in Massachusetts.

The identity of “Lady of the Dunes,” a victim of a grisly Cape Cod murder, has finally been uncovered after almost half a century, Joe Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the FBI Boston division, announced on Monday.

Using investigative genealogy — a method which combines DNA analysis with traditional genealogy research — the FBI has identified her as Ruth Marie Terry, a 37-year-old woman from Tennessee.

Prior to the breakthrough, she was “the oldest, unidentified, homicide victim in Massachusetts,” Bonavolonta said.

For years, Terry was known as “Lady of the Dunes,” because she was found in the dunes at the Cape Cod National Seashore in Provincetown in July 1974. She was found with her head nearly severed, and her hands were missing.

Then 12-year-old Leslie Metcalfe was out hiking with her parents and some of their friends’ dogs when they chanced upon Terry’s body, Alyssa Metcalfe, Leslie’s sister, told the Cape Cod Times in 2019. 

“The dog kind of started barking at something as they were hiking across, so my sister went to follow and see what the dog was barking at,” Metcalfe said. “That’s when she found the body.”

The cause of Terry’s death was determined to be a blow to the head. It is presumed that the killer had removed Terry’s hands to prevent fingerprint identification, Bonavolonta 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,” Bonavolonta said.

So far, investigators have determined that Terry was born in Tennessee, but “had ties to California, Massachusetts, and Michigan,” he said.

Terry’s family members were notified a few hours prior to the press conference, he added, asking that their privacy be respected.

The FBI did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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