Lady of the Dunes

Cat Leigh
Cat Leigh
Mar 2, 2020 · 5 min read

A brutally murdered woman has been unidentified for 46 years.

On July 26, 1974, 13-year-old Leslie Metcalfe followed her friend’s dog to the Race Point Dunes in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The dog was excited and seemed to have caught a scent in the air. The young girl was shocked when the dog led her to a decomposing body. Leslie immediately told an adult.

Sandra Lee, now an author, claims to have found the body two days prior to Leslie. At the time she was 9-years-old and camping with her family in Provincetown. While walking her dog she came across the body but was too scared to tell anyone.

body of unidentified woman / Wikimedia Commons

The naked body was located 15 feet from the nearest access road and there were tire tracks nearby. There were also two sets of footprints that led to the body. These steps disappeared into the nearby sand.

The body was that of a caucasian female that had been dead anywhere between 10 days to three weeks. She was lying face down on a green beach towel. Under her head were a folded pair of Wrangler jeans and a blue bandana. Her toenails were painted pink.

Despite several of her teeth being missing, she had what was described as “New York style” dental work worth thousands of dollars. Her hands were also missing. Piles of pine needles had been set in the sand in place of her hands.

The woman had been nearly decapitated and one side of her head had been crushed with what is believed to be a type of military entrenchment tool — this injury was determined to be the cause of death. She had been sexually assaulted, likely with a block of wood, after her death.

Though she could be anywhere from the ages of 20 to 49, she is most likely between 25 and 35-years-old. She had auburn or reddish hair that was being held in a ponytail with a glittery elastic band. The woman had an athletic build, weighed about 145 lbs, and was approximately 5'6".

Reconstruction of what the woman may have looked like, with and without freckles / Cleo8it

The unidentified woman may have been murdered while she was asleep. Because she was lying on one half of the towel, it is believed she had company. Presumably, her teeth and hands were removed by the killer in order to hide her identity.

Authorities searched through thousands of missing person reports hoping to find a match. They tried to find any dentists who may have worked on the woman’s teeth and they investigated vehicles that had been driven through the area during the weeks prior to the body being found. The area was searched for more evidence but nothing was found.

Various facial reconstructions made over the years / Wikipedia, The Doe Network

A woman from Maryland reached out to authorities because she suspected the unidentified woman was her sister, who also had auburn hair. The sisters had lost touch after the other moved to Boston a few months before the murder. It is unknown what happened to this lead, presumably it was inconclusive.

In 1987, a Canadian woman went to the police to tell them she had seen her father strangle a woman while visiting Providence in 1974 when she was five-years-old. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police passed this information to Massachusetts police. Unfortunately, by the time police tried to contact this woman, she had moved and they were never able to track her down.

At one point, the murdered woman was believed to be Rory Gene Kesinger, a drug dealer and bank robber. Rory, who had been 24-years-old at the time, had escaped from Plymouth County Correctional Facility in 1973. She had been serving time for assault with intent to murder. However, DNA from Rory’s mother did not match the unidentified woman.

Rory Kesinger / NamUs

Perhaps the most interesting theory, albeit far fetched, is one brought to light by author Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) in 2015. Joe, who was aware of the unidentified Lady of the Dunes, was watching Jaws when he noticed something interesting 54 minutes into the movie.

An extra, wearing a blue bandana and jeans, resembled the unidentified woman. Jaws was filmed shortly before the murder took place, in Martha’s Vineyard, a few hours away from Provincetown.

Though Joe admits it’s unlikely the woman in the movie is the Lady of the Dunes, an FBI agent and friend of his commented, “Odder ideas have cracked colder cases”.

Extra in Jaws who is theorized to be the unidentified woman / Yahoo News

Not only is the murdered woman still unidentified, but her killer has also never been established.

Hadden Clark, a well-known murderer, admitted to killing the Lady of the Dunes. However, authorities believe his confession is false as he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. He is currently imprisoned.

Infamous mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger is a suspect. Witnesses recall seeing him in the area with a similar-looking woman around the time of the murder. He was a regular at the Crown & Anchor in Provincetown. Notably, Whitey was known for trying to erase his victim’s identities. He was killed in 2018 by other inmates in prison.

The unknown woman was buried at Saint Peters Cemetery in October of 1974. She has been exhumed twice due to technological advancements. If you have any information, contact the Provincetown Police Department at 508–487–1212.

Reconstruction created in 2010 / NCMEC

The Lady of the Dunes remains unidentified 46 years later.

Lady of the Dunes’ resting spot /CapeCod.com

True Crime by Cat Leigh

Unsolved true crime cases.

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