Sunday, May 19

Skeletal remains found on Florida beach traced to woman last seen in 1968 with killer boyfriend

A Florida sheriff’s office recently announced that it has identified the victim in a homicide case nearly four decades after the investigation went cold.

The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said in a May 8 press release that human remains were found in a shallow grave on Crescent Beach in April 1985. Crescent Beach is located around 50 miles south of Jacksonville.

“The initial investigation revealed the victim was a white female, possibly between the ages of 30 and 50 at the time of her death,” the press release said. “Due to the circumstances, the manner of death was determined to be homicide.”

After years of efforts to advance the case, the remains were sent to Othram, a private forensics lab, in 2023. Leads were developed, and investigators visited potential relatives and collected samples. The remains were identified as Mary Alice Pultz in January 2024.

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“The Othram team was able to develop a DNA extract and build a DNA profile for the victim,” the sheriff’s office’s statement explained. “The profile was submitted to consumer genealogy databases where users have submitted their DNA and provided consent for comparison searches. This search resulted in possible relatives of the victim.”

Pultz was born in 1943 and raised in Maryland. She was last seen by her family in 1968 after leaving with her boyfriend, John Thomas Fugitt.

“Due to the times, communication was not great,” Sgt. Gene Tolbert said in an interview. “The belief is that Mary Alice and – he went by Tommy – had kind of moved off together, potentially to either Florida or Georgia.”

Investigators discovered that Pultz had burr holes in her skull, which showed she underwent brain surgery after 1968. Authorities believe she was “involved in some type of event that caused the traumatic injury and would have required hospitalization.”

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“[Chief Medical Examiner Wendolyn Sneed] advised these injuries, in addition to the surgical burr holes, are indicative of severe trauma that would have required hospitalization such as being involved in a vehicle crash or being struck by a vehicle,” the sheriff’s office said. “Additionally, Dr. Sneed discovered evidence of an abscess in the upper gum line of the skull that would have caused discomfort and pain. The analysis provided by Dr. Sneed is for historical purposes and are not related to the cause of death at the time of the homicide.”

Fugitt is still considered a person of interest in the case. He has since died.

“Detectives learned that Fugitt, who was known to go by an alias of Billy Joe Wallace, was sentenced to death in Georgia related to a 1981 murder of a male roommate,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “Fugitt died in prison prior to his execution.”

Sheriff Rob Hardwick called the homicide investigation “a powerful example that we will never give up.”

“The combination of highly skilled detectives and advanced DNA technology has given Mary Alice’s family some answers about her disappearance close to 40 years ago,” Hardwick said in a statement. “Our Major Crimes detectives are some of the best in the business and I am proud of their dedication to be a voice for homicide victims and their families as we seek closure for loved ones.”

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The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is actively investigating the homicide. Anyone with information related to the case is asked to contact crimetips@sjso.org or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS (8477).

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