Remarks Prepared for Delivery by FBI Boston Special Agent in Charge Joseph Bonavolonta at Press Conference Announcing the Identification of the Lady of the Dunes
Good morning and thank you for coming. I’m Joe Bonavolonta, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. I’m pleased to be joined by Massachusetts State Police Colonel Chris Mason, Provincetown Police Chief Jim Golden, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Levy.
We are standing here today to announce that after nearly a half-century of investigative efforts, we have identified the oldest, unidentified homicide victim in Massachusetts, known as the “Lady of the Dunes.” She is Ruth Marie Terry from Tennessee who was just 37-years-old at the time of her death.
The FBI identified Ruth using investigative genealogy. This is a unique method that can generate new leads for unsolved homicides, as well as help identify unknown victims.
This is, without a doubt, a major break in the investigation that will, hopefully, bring all of us closer to identifying her killer.
Earlier this morning, FBI special agents and victim specialists, along with Troopers from the Massachusetts State Police delivered the news to the victim’s family, and we would like to ask all of you to respect their privacy at this time.
On July 26,1974, Ruth was found deceased in the dunes about a mile east of the Race Point Ranger station inside the Cape Cod National Seashore in Provincetown, Massachusetts. At the time, the cause of death was determined to be a blow to the head and is estimated to have occurred several weeks prior. The victim’s hands were missing, presumably removed by her killer so she could not be identified through fingerprints, and her head was nearly severed from her body.
It was a brutal death, and for the last 48 years, investigators with the Massachusetts State Police and Provincetown Police Department have worked tirelessly to identify her through various means, including neighborhood canvasses; reviews of thousands of missing persons cases; clay model facial reconstruction, and age-regression drawings.
Since this crime was committed, many investigative and scientific techniques have either improved or been created through new advances in technology. One of these methods is Investigative Genealogy and combines the use of DNA analysis with traditional genealogy research, and historical records, to generate investigative leads for unsolved violent crimes.
Just last week, the FBI received positive confirmation of Ruth’s identity through the genealogical examination of this infamous cold case.
However, to be clear, we would like to emphasize that we are not getting access to any DNA results stored within private databases and we have no interest in obtaining actual DNA results from these companies.
As investigators, cases like this one haunt us, and the agencies represented here today are constantly re-evaluating and coming up with new investigative strategies to try and advance them. We also realize that while we have identified Ruth as the victim of this horrific murder, it does not ease the pain for her family—nothing can—but hopefully it answers some questions while we continue to look for her killer.
So, what exactly do we know about Ruth Marie Terry?
At this point in time, we can tell you she was born in Tennessee in 1936. Ruth was a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, and mother. Investigators have also determined that in addition to Tennessee, she had ties to California, Massachusetts, and Michigan.
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.
We are asking the public to review Ruth’s Seeking Information Poster, and if anyone has any information concerning this case that could help the investigative team, we’re asking you to contact either the Massachusetts State Police or the FBI.
I think the most important message that we can deliver today is to every victim of violent crime, and that is the FBI and our entire law enforcement community in Massachusetts will never give up, and we will use whatever technological advancement we can to seek justice for you and your family.
Today’s announcement should also serve as a warning to every murderer, rapist, and violent offender out there. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will not give up. It may take years, or even decades, but we are determined and we will be dogged in our search for justice for victims and their families.
On behalf of the men and women of FBI Boston, I want to extend my sincere thanks to Colonel Mason, Chief Golden, District Attorney O’Keefe and their teams for almost five decades worth of hard work and persistence, and for bringing us on board to assist. I also want to thank FBI Boston’s analyst and agents in our Lakeville office who worked very hard to identify Ruth, and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Levy and his office who stand at the ready to assist us.
Now I will turn it over to Massachusetts State Police Colonel Chris Mason to say a few words.