‘Lady of the Dunes’ case officially closed; husband to blame for brutal murder, DA says

Local News

For decades, authorities could not identify the body of Ruth Marie Terry, who was killed sometime in the summer of 1974.

More than 49 years since Ruth Marie Terry’s body was found near Provincetown, becoming known as the “Lady of the Dunes,” authorities have officially closed the investigation into her death.

Images of Ruth Marie Terry, the “Lady of the Dunes,” displayed at a press conference in the FBI’s Chelsea office in 2022. – Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe

They determined that her husband, Guy Muldavin, was responsible. Muldavin died in 2002, Cape and Islands District Attorney Robert Galibois said in a press release Monday.

Terry’s identity was not made public until 2021, and for many years she was the oldest unidentified homicide victim in the state.

Her body was found on July 26, 1974, about one mile west of Race Point Road. It was determined that she died from a blow to the head, which is estimated to have happened several weeks before her body was found, according to Provincetown officials. Terry’s hands were missing, presumably as an attempt by her killer to avoid fingerprint identification. Terry’s head was nearly severed from her body.

The case flummoxed investigators for years. Local police investigated it until 1982, when the case was turned over to state police detectives assigned to the Cape and Islands District. Terry’s skull was never buried with her body and remained in police custody. As DNA testing technology advanced, portions of the skull were analyzed for potential matches, according to Galibois’s office.

The technique known as investigative genealogy led to a breakthrough in 2021. A portion of Terry’s jaw was tested, and investigators developed a DNA profile that led to her identification.

Once police had Terry’s identity in hand, they were able to launch a full investigation of her life and the events that led to her death. She married Muldavin in either 1973 or 1974. The couple traveled afterward, stopping in Tennessee to see Terry’s family.

They continued traveling during the summer of 1974, according to Galibois’s office, and Muldavin was seen driving Terry’s vehicle afterward. He told witnesses that Terry died, and Terry was never seen alive again. At one point, Terry’s brother tried to find her with Muldavin. Terry’s brother was told that they had a fight during their honeymoon and that Muldavin had not heard from her.

Guy Rockwell Muldavin. Massachusetts State Police

Muldavin was also the prime suspect in the disappearances of his ex-wife and stepdaughter in the Seattle area during the ’60’s, according to Galibois’s office.

Muldavin was described as a “once wealthy antique dealer” in an article that appeared in the The Madera Tribune in 1960. Parts of the bodies of his ex-wife and stepdaughter were reportedly found in a newly-sealed septic tank in their home.

Muldavin, who also used the name Raoul Guy Rockwell, was wanted for questioning in relation to the killing of a bread truck driver and the disappearance of a waitress in 1950 in California, according to a 1960 article that appeared in The Bellingham Herald.

Muldavin died on March 14, 2002, at the age of 78 in Salinas, California, according to an online obituary. Last November, authorities said that Muldavin was a suspect in Terry’s death and asked for information from the public.