DA closes ‘Lady of Dunes’ investigation after determining husband killed her on Cape Cod

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — Investigators have concluded that the “Lady of the Dunes,” whose mutilated body was found on a beach in Provincetown, was killed by her husband nearly 50 years ago, Cape and Islands District Attorney Robert J. Galibois announced Monday.

The body of Ruth Marie Terry was discovered in the dunes area about one mile west of Race Point Road in Provincetown on July 26, 1974, prompting an extensive investigation that spanned a half-century.

The investigation into Terry’s death was initially investigated by Provincetown police, but in 1982, the department requested the case be turned over to the Massachusetts State Police Detectives Unit for the Cape and Islands District.

Provincetown police say Terry’s hands were missing, presumably removed by the killer so she could not be identified through fingerprints, and her head was nearly severed from her body with an instrument similar to a military entrenching tool.

In a news release in 2010, the department wrote, “The left side of her skull had been crushed. No weapon was found at the crime scene. Her nude body was discovered lying on a beach towel with her head resting on her folded jeans. There was no sign of a struggle and the woman lay on half the towel, as if she’d been sharing it with a companion.”

Terry’s skull was ultimately placed in police custody and never sent to the cemetery for burial with the rest of the remains. Over the years and with the development of technology, portions of the skull had been tested for potential DNA. A profile was finally obtained in 2021, leading to a positive identification.

The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office issued Terry’s official death certificate on April 5, 2023, according to Galibois’ office, and state police detectives were able to complete their investigation into the death

Terry married Guy Muldavin in either 1973 or 1974 and they traveled after their wedding, stopping in Tennessee to see Terry’s family, investigators said. Detectives later learned that Terry and Muldavin traveled during the summer of 1974. When Muldavin returned from that trip, he was said to be driving what was believed to be Terry’s vehicle and had indicated to witnesses that Terry had passed away.

Terry was never seen by her family again and her brother tried to find his sister with Muldavin only stating that they had a fight during their honeymoon, and he had not heard from his wife again.

“Based on the investigation into the death of Ms. Terry, it has been determined that Mr. Muldavin was responsible for Ms. Terry’s death in 1974. Mr. Muldavin passed away in 2002,” Galibois’ office said in a news release.

Muldavin was also said to be the prime suspect in the disappearance of one of his wives and a stepdaughter in the Seattle, Washington area in the 1960s.

Muldavin has since passed away.

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