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

By Laura Ly, CNNUpdated: Mon, 31 Oct 2022 18:44:52 GMTSource: CNNA woman found dead on Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1974 has been identified nearly 50 years later using "investigative genealogy," Specia

By Laura Ly, CNN

Updated: Mon, 31 Oct 2022 18:44:52 GMT

Source: CNN

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

Previously dubbed the "Lady of the Dunes" due to her being found in the sand dunes in Provincetown, authorities identified her as Ruth Marie Terry, 37. Prior to her identification, she was the oldest unidentified homicide victim in the state of Massachusetts, Bonavolonta said.

Assistant Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Josh Levy called Monday's announcement the "product of tireless and exceptional police work and work by law enforcement."

The use of investigative genealogy by law enforcement 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 prior, Bonavolonta said. Her hands were missing from her body and her head was "nearly severed," he added.

The FBI Boston Field Office said in a news release Terry's hands were "presumably removed by the killer so she could not be identified through fingerprints."

Bonavolonta, who was joined at a news conference with representatives from the Massachusetts State Police, Provincetown Police, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's Office, and the Cape and Islands District Attorney's Office, also said their investigation will now turn to finding Terry's killer.

"We are determined and we will be dogged in our search for justice for victims and their families," Bonavolonta said.

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

"If Ruth Marie hadn't met her assailant in 1974, she could be 86 years old today. If the person responsible for the crime was in his or her 20s or 30s, he would be in his last 60s or 70s. If we was a little older, he may well be dead. But we will assume he is not. And we will pursue every lead and every clue to bring this person to justice," Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe said.