July 26th, 1974, a 12-year old girl was out walking with her family in the Race Point Dunes of Provincetown, Massachusetts. It was here that they would find the decomposing body of a female, who may have died just 2 weeks before her body was found.
The lady was found lying face-down on half of a beach blanket. Two sets of footprints led to the body, and tire tracks were found just 50 yards (46 meters) from the scene.
There was no sign of a struggle, which led police to believe that the women either knew her killer(s), or was asleep while attacked. The woman was nearly decapitated, possibly from strangulation. Her cause of death was that her head had been crushed by a potentially military-style entrenching (digging) tool. There were also signs of sexual assault, that was most likely done after she had died. The woman was also missing teeth, her hands and forehands, which could have been done by the killer to protect his/her identity, or the identity of the woman.
The lady was around 5″6′ (168cm) tall, and weighed 145 pounds (66kg). She had an athletic build, long auburn or red hair that had been put back into a ponytail with a gold-flecked hairband. A blue bandana and pair of Wrangler jeans were found under her head, and her toenails were painted pink. The lady had also had around $5,000-$10,000 worth of dental work done, including crowns, which police described as the “New York style” of dental work. She was around 25 – 40 years old when she died, but she could have been as young as 20 or as old as 49.
After her body had been discovered, the police spent weeks going through missing person reports and searching the area where her body was found. Neither search brought any result, however due to the lack of disturbances surrounding the beach blanket and sand, the police think that her body was moved to that specific location.
The woman was laid to rest in Saint Peters Cemetery, Provincetown, Massachusetts, in October 1974 after the case had gone cold. Her body was exhumed in 1980, 2000, and 2010 for further examination and to collect DNA samples.
There were very few leads in this case. In 1987, a woman told police that she saw her father strangle a woman in Massachusetts, but police could not locate this woman. Another lady told police that the reconstruction image looked like her sister, who disappeared from Boston in 1974.
Investigators also ruled out a criminal, Rory Gene Kesinger, as the DNA of the victim did not match Kesinger’s mother’s DNA. Francis Ewalt of Montana, and Vickie Lamberton of Massachusetts, two women who disappeared, have also been ruled out.
In 2015, people began theorising that the Lady of the Dunes may have been an extra in Jaws (1975), that had been shot in Menemsha, which is about 100 miles (160 kilometres) away from Provincetown, between May and October 1974. As you can see below, the woman in the film is wearing a blue bandana and jeans similar to those found with the lady. The extra also has a striking resemblance to the reconstruction images that had been made. Whilst some think that it is “far-fetched”, a lead investigator has become interested in this lead.
In terms of suspects, there have been very little. As you can imagine, it is hard to find a suspect for a murder victim who you can’t identify.
The first was mobster Whitey Bulger, who witnesses say a girl who resembled the lady had been seen with around the time she was found dead. Bulger also liked to remove teeth from his victims. However, no link was ever proven between the lady and Bulger, and he died in prison in 2018.
Tony Costa, a serial killer in the area, was also considered to be involved. It was later found that he had died in May, 1974 and the lady was found in July, 1974.
One serial killer did confess that he had killed this woman, and that was Hadden Clark. He stated: “I could have told the police what her name was, but after they beat the shit out of me, I wasn’t going to tell them shit. This murder is still unsolved and what the police are looking for is in my grandfather’s garden.” Although this seems like a solid confession, authorities say that Clark suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, which sometimes causes false confessions. In 2004, Clark sent a letter to a friend that said he had murdered a woman in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, along with a drawing of a handless woman sprawled out on her stomach, and a map pointing to where the body was found.
Clark’s involvement with the Lady of the Dunes is still unknown. Could he be telling the truth? Or is this simply just a side effect from his illness? Either way, the Lady of the Dunes’ real identity is still unknown.
Unsolved, unidentified, USA