'Lady Of The Dunes' Cold Case Closed After Her Husband Was Named The Killer
Ruth Marie Terry, a murder victim who was known only as the “Lady of the Dunes” for nearly 50 years, was identified, and now her husband has been named as her killer.
On July 26, 1974, a young girl walking along the dunes of a Provincetown, Massachusetts, beach made a horrifying discovery. She found the remains of a woman who had been left nude on a beach blanket.
The woman’s skull had been crushed. Her head was close to being decapitated from her body. To presumably prevent identification through fingerprints, her hands had been severed, according to the Associated Press. Police believe she was killed several weeks before her body was discovered. The official cause of death was blunt-force trauma to the head, and WCVB reported that there were also signs the victim had been strangled and sexually assaulted. It also appeared as though the killer had tried to remove her teeth.
Investigators worked hard to solve the case, but it would take close to 50 years to finally determine the identities of the victim and her killer. Some of the investigative methods used over the years included creating clay model facial reconstructions, utilizing age-regression drawings, and assessing missing-person cases.
For nearly five decades, the victim was known to authorities and the public only as “Lady of the Dunes”. Meanwhile, many investigative techniques and technologies have been introduced or improved. Thanks to this, renewed FBI investigations were successful in October 2022.
The “Lady of the Dunes” was identified as Ruth Marie Terry, a 37-year-old woman from Tennessee. The FBI shared that she was identified using investigative genealogy. They used DNA analysis in addition to utilizing historical records and doing traditional genealogy research.
Now, her killer has also been identified. Tragically, her husband, Guy Rockwell Muldavin, has been determined to be responsible for her death. He allegedly murdered her in 1974 only months after marrying her, according to a press release from the Cape & Islands District Attorney Robert J Galibois.
Muldavin and Terry had married that summer and went on their honeymoon. He returned home alone. He told relatives they had fought and that he hadn’t heard of her again.
WCVB reported that her nephew, John Randall Terry, stated, "My father, well, he left in '74, he went to California looking for her. And her husband at the time said she sold everything she had and joined a cult.”
Muldavin had been the prime suspect in the disappearance of another former wife and his stepdaughter in the 1960’s. Their mutilated bodies had been found in a septic tank in the home they shared not long after he married his next wife, but he was never charged despite an initial arrest for the murders.
Muldavin died in 2002, so he won’t face justice, but the mystery is solved.
Ruth Marie Terry was "a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, and mother," police said, reported CBS News. There was a theory that she had been an extra in the movie “Jaws” that was never substantiated, but it was filmed in what would have been the final months of Terry’s life.
A woman’s dead body was discovered in a trunk in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Halloween in 1969. After 53 years, police have identified the victim as mother-of-five Sylvia June Atherton.