Crime: Graves in the Dunes

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The two girls had been to Provincetown, Mass., in the summertime, when its narrow streets were teeming with family vacationers and hippies. In January, they returned to the Cape Cod resort during a winter-quiet weekend. Mary Ann Wysocki, a college student, and Patricia Walsh, a teacher, both 23, checked in at a guesthouse run by Patricia Morton. That night they visited three Provincetown bars. At one called the Fo'cs'l, they met Antone Costa, 24, an unemployed handyman, amateur taxidermist and divorced father of three, who was also staying at Mrs. Morton's. The girls checked out the next day and were never again seen alive.

When they failed to return to their homes in Providence, R.I., their parents alerted police and an all-points alarm went out. Soon after, police found the mutilated remains of an unidentified teen-age girl buried in a shallow grave in the tiny town of Truro, a desolate windswept strip of dunes and woods only eight miles from Provincetown. Then last week, about 300 yards away, they uncovered the two Providence girls and another unidentified teenager. All were similarly butchered.

Out of Gas. A routine entry in the Truro police blotter led to the first discovery. Checking out a resident's complaint, Police Chief Harold Berrio found an abandoned Volkswagen parked in a lonely wooded area known locally as a lovers' lane. On the windshield was a handwritten note explaining that the driver had run out of gas and would return. A few days later, the Teletype clattered the story of the missing girls and gave the registration number of their car; it matched the number that Berrio had dutifully recorded. The car belonged to Patricia Walsh, but when Truro police went back to look for it, the VW was gone.

They began probing the ground near where the car had been parked. In the first grave, they found a head wrapped in a plastic bag and a torso, with apparent stab wounds, swathed in cloth. Further searching turned up parts of the three other bodies. It appeared that the girls had been killed before dismemberment. An ax or cleaver had been used for the grotesque operations. All, apparently, were nude at death, and there were teeth marks on the bodies. An autopsy showed that one of the two teenagers' bodies had been buried for eight or nine months, the other as long as a year. One of the Providence girls had apparently tried to flee. Police found her handbag not far from the burial ground.

In Burlington, Vt., police spotted the missing blue Volkswagen in a local garage. The owner said that it had been left by a man named Costa, who told him that he would park it there for a month. When police questioned Antone Costa about the car, he produced a bill of sale, purportedly drawn up by Patricia Walsh. He was kept under surveillance, and last week the wanderer —who sports a neatly trimmed mustache, sideburns and "granny" glasses —was arrested in Boston. He was taken to Provincetown district court, where he pleaded innocent to the charge of murdering the two Rhode Island girls. He was then sent for observation to the state hospital at Bridgewater, Mass.

Police continued their search, fearing that they might find in the Truro woods the bodies of several Cape Cod girls who have been reported missing. In none of the random graves could they find any of the four girls' hearts.