DNA, Genealogy Help FBI Identify Woman Found Dead 50 Years Ago

On Monday, FBI Boston Division Special Agent in Charge Joseph R. Bonavolonta said that “investigative genealogy” had led to the identification of a lady whose body had been discovered on Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1974.

Ruth Marie Terry, 37, was recently recognized as the “Lady of the Dunes,” a moniker given to her since she was discovered among Provincetown sand dunes. Bonavolonta said that she was the oldest unidentified murder victim in Massachusetts before her discovery.

Dna, Genealogy Help Fbi Identify Woman Found Dead 50 Years Ago
Dna, Genealogy Help Fbi Identify Woman Found Dead 50 Years Ago

The declaration made on Monday was the result of “tireless and excellent police work and effort by law enforcement,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Josh Levy.

Bonavolonta explains that police agencies are increasingly turning to “conventional genealogical research and historical data to develop investigative leads for unsolved violent murders” as part of an effort to identify suspects in cold cases.

On July 26, 1974, police located Terry. Blows to the head, Bonavolonta stated, were the immediate cause of her death weeks earlier. He also noted that she was missing both hands and that her skull had been “almost severed.”

According to a press statement from the FBI Boston Field Office, Terry had her hands “apparently removed by the murderer so that she could not be recognized by fingerprints.”

At a press conference, Bonavolonta said that the focus of the investigation would shift to identifying and apprehending those responsible for Terry’s death. He was joined by officers from the Massachusetts State Police, Provincetown Police, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, and the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office.

In pursuit of justice for victims and their families, “we are resolute and we will be dogged,” Bonavolonta said.

Furthermore, Bonavolonta Terry was a tennessee native (born in 1936) with family on the west coast (specifically California, Massachusetts, and Michigan). She had several roles in her family: woman, mother, wife, and sister. He added that Terry’s loved ones found out about her identity mere hours before Monday’s press briefing.

Ruth Marie may be 86 years old right now if she hadn’t met her attacker in 1974. In other words, if the perpetrator was in his or her twenties or thirties at the time of the crime, that individual is now in his or her late sixties or early seventies. It’s possible that he wouldn’t be alive now if he had been a little bit older. Let’s just pretend he isn’t and move on. Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe pledged to “follow every path and every clue” in the investigation.


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