Lady of the Dunes

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DISCOVERY:

On July 26, 1974, a 13-year-old girl walking her dog at Race Point Dunes in Massachusetts discovered the nude body of an unidentified woman, just 15 feet from a secluded service road. The body was lying face down and had already begun to decompose.

The area in which the body was discovered was near the Dune’s Edge campground, about one mile from Race Point Beach and another mile east of the Race Point ranger station.

AUTOPSY:

Upon the body being brought in for examination, it was discovered that Jane Doe had died approximately 10 days to three weeks prior to being found. Due to the amount of time that had passed, there had been a significant amount of insect activity on the body.

Jane Doe’s hands were missing, one from the wrist and the other at the elbow, presumably removed by the killer to prevent her fingerprints from being taken. This led investigators to believe she may have had a criminal record and thus could have been identified through her fingerprints. As well, it appears she had been sexually assaulted post-mortem with a block of wood, and her teeth were removed by her killer.

The cause of death was determined to be blunt-force trauma to the head, as the left side of her skull had been crushed. Her head was nearly severed from her body with an instrument similar to a military entrenching tool and could have been the result of strangulation.

INVESTIGATION:

A search of the area in which Jane Doe was found resulted in no weapons being uncovered. As well, there were no signs of a struggle, as the surrounding beach and sand were undisturbed. This suggested to police that she either knew her killer or had been asleep at the time of her murder. Two sets of footprints were seen leading to the body, with tire tracks present about 50 yards from the scene.

Tony Costa, a serial killer known to operate in the area, was initially thought to be a suspect. However, he’d passed away on May 12, 1974.

Extensive searches of the dunes were done in the days following the discovery of Jane Doe, but produced no evidence.

Police searched through thousands of missing persons reports and a list of approved vehicles that had driven through the area, but were unable to come up with any matches.

In 1987, a Canadian woman had told a friend she’d seen her father strangle a woman in Massachusetts around 1972. However, police were never able to locate the woman. Another woman told police the reconstruction of Jane Doe looked similar to her sister, who disappeared from Boston in 1974, but she wasn’t a match.

The body was exhumed in 1980, 2000 and 2013 in attempts to ID Jane Doe, but investigators have had no luck in this endeavour.

In 2004, serial killer Hadden Clark confessed to her murder. However, police are skeptical of his credibility, given his history as a paranoid schizophrenic.

Police used ground-penetrating radar during their search, and consulted with both dentists and psychics, but to no avail.

Whitey Bulger is currently a person of interest in the case, as he was in the area at the time and had been seen with a similar-looking woman. As well, he is known to have removed people’s teeth.

DETAILS:

Jane Doe is described as white, and is believed to have been between 20 and 49 years old. Described as having an athletic build, she stood between 5’6″ and 5’8″ and weighed approximately 145 pounds.

Her hair, which was in a ponytail, was an auburn colour and held up with a gold-flecked hair elastic. Given the level of decomposition, her eye colour is currently unknown. Her toenails were painted pink, and her teeth showed extensive dental work done in “the New York style”. A few teeth had gold crowns worth between $5,000 and $10,000.

Wrangler jeans and a blue bandana had been placed under Jane Doe’s head and her body had been laid on top of a light green, heavy cotton beach blanket.

Joe Hill, son of author Stephen King, believes the unidentified woman could have been an extra on the 1975 film Jaws, as it was shooting in the area at the time. There had been a woman on set resembling reconstructions of Jane Doe who was seen wearing a blue bandana and jeans. However, this theory is seen by many to be a speculation.

Currently, theories state that Jane Doe could have been a prostitute and could have been from another country.

RULE OUTS:

1) Rory Gene Kesinger, who went missing from Plymouth, Massachusetts on May 27, 1973.

2) Francis Ewait, who went missing from Montana.

3) Vicke Lamberton, who went missing from Worchester, Massachusetts on February 1, 1974.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Jane Doe’s DNA and dentals are currently available.

Those with information regarding the identity of Jane Doe are being asked to contact the Provincetown Police Department at either 508-487-1212 or 508-487-1213. Tips can also be called in to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner at 617-267-6767.

Image Credit: NCMEC/The Doe Network

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