The Lady of the Dunes identified as woman with Michigan ties

Author Ed Anderson
The Lady of The Dunes has been identified as Ruth Marie TerryFBI

Massachusetts' oldest cold case has moved a step closer to being solved. On October 31, 2022, The Lady of the Dunes, as she was known, received her identity back. FBI agents announced that the woman was Ruth Marie Terry. She regained her name on what would have been her 86th birthday.

The FBI website says that Ms. Terry had ties to Michigan, though they do not explain what those ties were.

Terry was a native of Tennessee. NBC Boston 10, she was a mother and sister at the time of her death. In another report, the station also indicated that she was a wife. However, details on her marriage and children are currently scarce.

Terry's body was found in 1974. For the last 48 years, authorities have attempted to find out who the Lady of the Dunes is but hit brick walls at every turn. For decades they believed her to be Rory Kessinger, a criminal that escaped prison shortly before the discovery of the body.

However, DNA tests against Kessinger's mother disproved that theory in 2002. Since then, authorities have been trying to find out who The Lady was, so they could solve the mystery at the heart of the case: who killed her and why.

Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason told NBC News that there are unsolved cases that haunt nearly every investigator as they near retirement. "For many police investigators at the end of their careers, there is often an unresolved case that haunts them, that intrudes upon the days, years and decades of the rest of their lives," he said. "This case has been that for generations of Provincetown police officers and Massachusetts state troopers."
The FBI is seeking information on Ruth Marie Terry and who killed herFBI

Breakthrough In Case

How were authorities able to identify Terry? It's a question that reporters have been asking the FBI agents that announced the news today. The answer is through a process also used to identify the Golden Gate Killer and many other criminals over the past few years.

The FBI said they used investigative genealogy. It allows them to generate new leads on who a victim or a suspect might be. Science Direct reveals that the process tries to link DNA samples to others in a database. Any match, whether parental, sibling, or other close relation, can be used to narrow in on the identity.

When pressed on the methodology used, the FBI gave more details to CBS News. They used DNA analysis with genealogy research and historical records. By doing this, they could zoom in on Ms. Terry and decipher that this was a woman who had been reported missing during the time frame when it was believed that she was killed.

Joe Bonavolonta, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Boston Division, told reporters that this type of investigation was unique but would likely be used more in the future: "This is, without a doubt, a major break in the investigation that will, hopefully, bring all of us closer to identifying the killer."

Finding the murderer may not be as easy as some are hoping it would be.

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe warned the culprit through reporters that authorities would find them and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Though he did admit that there was a chance that the killer might be dead.

CBS News quoted him: "It's very likely that the person who did this is dead. But they may not be, so the message to them if they're still out there is 'We're coming...'"
The Lady of The Dunes was given her name back on October 31, 2022FBI

On The List

There are a plethora of suspects in the case. Many people have stepped forward with different claims over the years, including a serial killer who confessed to the crime. However, none of these leads have panned out as of press time.

Hadden Clark, the prolific serial killer who claimed responsibility for the crime, was ruled out as a viable suspect. While serving time in prison for murder, he claimed to have killed 11 other women and buried them near his grandparents' house. According to The Boston Globe, that turned out to be a false confession.

Police also looked at his brother, but that did not work out either.

Mass Live reports that another serial killer was thought to be behind Terry's murder. Tony Costa seemed a likely suspect since the crime scene fit the way he operated. However, her body was found on July 26, 1974, and he died on May 12, 1974.

Another infamous man has been theorized to have been the killer for decades. Whitey Bulger was said to have been seen with the Lady of the Dunes before her death. Cape Cod Today reports that an anonymous source tipped off the police that the gangster was seen with a woman who looked like the composite sketch released to the public.

It has also been reported that Bulger would yank teeth out of his victims' mouths to stop them from being identified. He was never formally charged with the murder, nor are there reports that he was ever a serious suspect in the case.

The story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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Ed Anderson is a true crime and gossip writer from Detroit, Michigan. Ed is the author of several true crime books, most recently Financing Doubt.

Rochester, MI

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