Human remains found on Florida beach 40 years ago identified

Posted at 9:03 AM, May 14, 2024

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (Scripps News Baltimore) — Human remains dug up decades ago on a Florida beach have been identified as a Maryland woman.

Construction workers discovered the remains in a shallow grave while building a walking bridge on Crescent Beach in April of 1985.

All detectives knew at the time was the body was that of a white woman, between the ages of 30 and 50.

dual image of woman's portrait and beach

(L) Mary Alice Pultz, (R) Area where human remains were found on Crescent Beach in 1985. (St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office)

However, the circumstances were enough for investigators to rule it a homicide.

With little evidence to go on, the investigation went cold.

In 2023, the St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office sent portions of the remains to Othram, a private lab in Texas, to develop a DNA profile of the victim.

Once complete the profile was entered into genealogy databases, where people can submit DNA in search of their ancestors.

DNA from the remains turned up a pair of prospective relatives.

Detectives traveled to meet and familiarize them with the case.

Each allowed their DNA to be compared with the remains, which revealed a match.

With that, police were able to positively identify the remains as Mary Alice Pultz, originally of Rockville, Maryland.

Police then tracked down her son in Arizona and sister in Virginia.

photo of shirtless man on beach

FILE – John Thomas Fugitt (St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office)

Neither had seen Pultz since 1968, when she reportedly left town with her then-boyfriend, John Thomas Fugitt, who also went by the name Billy Joe Wallace.

Fugitt died in prison after being convicted of the 1981 murder of his roommate in Georgia.

While police still consider Fugitt a person of interest in Pultz’s death, they’re not ruling out other potential suspects.

How exactly Fugitt was killed remains unclear.

The Medical Examiner’s Office noted Pultz suffered traumatic injuries in the past, possibly from a car crash, but wasn’t able to directly tie it to her death.

“This investigation is 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,” said St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick.

Anyone with more information is asked to email [email protected] or call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS (8477).

This story was originally published by Scripps News Baltimore, an E.W. Scripps Company.