FBI identifies woman found dead nearly 50 years ago using DNA, genealogy

FBI identifies woman found dead nearly 50 years ago using DNA, genealogy


A woman found dead in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1974 has been identified nearly 50 years later using “investigative genealogy,” FBI Boston Division Special Agent in Charge Joseph R. Bonavolonta announced Monday.

Previously nicknamed the “Lady of the Dunes” because she was found in the sand dunes in Provincetown, authorities identified her as 37-year-old Ruth Marie Terry. Prior to her identification, she was the oldest unidentified homicide victim in the state of Massachusetts, Bonavolonta. he said.

Massachusetts Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Levy called Monday’s announcement the “product of tireless and outstanding police work and the work of law enforcement.”

Law enforcement’s use of investigative genealogy combines the use of DNA analysis with “traditional genealogy research and historical records to generate investigative leads for unsolved violent crimes,” Bonavolonta said.

Terry was found on July 26, 1974. Her cause of death was determined at the time to be a blow to the head, several weeks earlier, Bonavolonta said. His hands were missing from his body and his head was “almost severed,” he added.

The FBI Boston Field Office said in a news release Terry’s hands were “presumably removed by the killer, so he could not be identified by fingerprints.”

Bonavolonta, who was joined at a press conference by representatives of the Massachusetts State Police, Provincetown Police, the Massachusetts United States Attorney’s Office and the Office of the U.S. Attorney Cape and Islands District, also said that their investigation will now turn to finding Terry’s killer.

“We are determined and will be persistent in our pursuit of justice for the victims and their families,” Bonavolonta said.

Bonavolonta added Terry was born in Tennessee in 1936 and had ties to California, Massachusetts and Michigan. She was a daughter, sister, aunt, wife and mother. Terry’s family members were notified of his identification just hours before Monday’s news conference, he said.

“If Ruth Marie had not met her attacker in 1974, she could be 86 years old today. If the person responsible for the crime was in her 20s or 30s, she would be in her late 60s or 70s. If we were a little older, he may be dead. But we’re going to assume he’s not. And we’re going to pursue every lead and every clue to bring this person to justice,” said Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe.

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