HUNTER: We now know the identity of Lady of the Dunes, but who killed her?


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Chinese district hit the big screen in July 1974, the life was accompanied by a stunning soundtrack featuring Paul McCartney and Wings, Eric Clapton and Steely Dan.

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America’s role in Vietnam was over, the oil embargo was in the rearview mirror, and the president was about to step down in disgrace.

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In the Race Point Dunes, Massachusetts, on July 26, 1974, a 13-year-old girl walking her dog found the body of a woman. The location was not far from where Jaws was filmed, on Martha’s Vineyard.

A teenager has found her body.  PROVINCE POLICE
A teenager has found her body. PROVINCE POLICE

The victim had nearly been decapitated, his hands cut off and several of his teeth pulled out. No fingerprints, no ID, nothing to testify to his presence on this planet.

The newspapers called her “The Lady of the Dunes” and for nearly 50 years she was a soul without a name.

On Monday, FBI agents finally put a name to Massachusetts’ oldest unidentified homicide victim. She is a Tennessee native, Ruth Marie Terry, who was around 37 at the time of her death.

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RUTH MARIE TERRY: For almost 50 years, she was known only as the Lady of the Dunes, victim of a Jane Doe homicide.
RUTH MARIE TERRY: For almost 50 years, she was known only as the Lady of the Dunes, victim of a Jane Doe homicide.

“This is undoubtedly a major break in the investigation that will hopefully bring us all one step closer to identifying his killer,” said Joe Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the Boston division. from the FBI.

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What is known is that the killer did not want the woman to be identified, so her hands were cut off post-mortem. Officials believe she was beaten to death and the fatal blow was delivered to the left side of her head.

Terry had also been sexually assaulted with some kind of wooden object after her death. There were no signs of a struggle, leading detectives to believe she knew her killer.

No one knows why she was on Cape Cod. Author Joe Hill – son of Stephen King – noted in 2018 that there was an extra in the 1975 blockbuster Jaws who is a Terry lookalike. Most murder scholars agreed that Hill had a pretty good point.

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Is it the Lady of the Dunes in Jaws?  UNIVERSAL IMAGES
Is it the Lady of the Dunes in Jaws? UNIVERSAL IMAGES

Still, aspiring comedians don’t typically travel from Tennessee to New England for extra work, though Terry reportedly has Massachusetts ties.

Now the question is: who killed her and why? The case has taken on legendary status in New England and there is no shortage of possible suspects or motives.

Topping many lists is notorious Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger. In 1981, detectives discovered that the mobster had been keeping time with a woman who looked a lot like Terry at the time of his murder. He also had a penchant for removing the teeth of his victims.

This combination of 1984 file photos provided by the FBI shows James
This combination of 1984 file photos provided by the FBI shows James “Whitey” Bulger. Bulger was convicted Monday, August 12, 2013, of a series of 11 murders and other gang crimes, many of which were committed while he was believed to be an FBI informant. (AP Photo/FBI, File)

Bulger was taken into custody in a West Virginia prison in 2018.

Another possibility is suspected serial killer Hadden Clark, who confessed to the murder.

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He said: “I could have told the police what her name was but after they beat me I wasn’t going to tell them s***. This murder is still unsolved and what the police are looking for is in my grandfather’s garden.

In 2004, he sent a letter to a friend claiming he had murdered a woman on Cape Cod. Two drawings accompanied the letter: one of a naked woman, without hands, lying on her stomach, the second a map indicating the place where the body was found.

The killing may also have been random. A date gone wrong or some other trivial excuse for a homicide.

This is all a far cry from the summer of 1974, when the sun shone a little brighter, the movies were better, and the music, well, much better.

Back when murder could still shock us.

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