Orphaned on the Ocean: The Unbelievable Story of Terry Jo Duperrault | Reader's Digest

Orphaned on the Ocean: The Unbelievable Story of Terry Jo Duperrault

A young girl alone on a raft. A mysterious yacht accident. A missing family. It's a strange and tragic tale.

By Richard Logan and Tere Duperrault Fassbender from Alone: Orphaned on The Ocean
Also published in Reader's Digest Magazine March 2014

terry jo duperrault hospital alone orphaned on the oceanAP Photo
Terry Jo spent 11 days in a Miami hospital but had no permanent injuries
When Julian Harvey was hired as skipper of the Bluebelle, not a lot was known about his earlier life. The 44-year-old was a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel married to Mary Dene Jordan, an aspiring writer and a former TWA flight attendant.

The day after the Bluebelle went down, the lookout on a Puerto Rico–bound oil tanker spotted a small wooden dinghy floating in the middle of the broad and deep Northwest Providence Channel. When the captain pulled the tanker closer, a man in the dinghy yelled, “My name is Julian Harvey. I am master of the Bluebelle.”

In the days that followed, Harvey told the Coast Guard in Miami that he was the sole survivor of a grave accident. In the middle of the previous night, he reported, a sudden squall damaged the sailboat. His wife, Dene, and the Duperraults were injured when the masts and rigging collapsed. Gas lines in the engine room ruptured, and the ship caught fire as it slowly sank. Harvey said he had managed to launch the dinghy and raft and dive overboard, but tangled rigging trapped everyone else on board.

A few days later, installed at the Sandman Hotel, Harvey heard that Terry Jo had survived. The next day, a maid at the hotel saw blood on the sheets in Harvey’s room. When she couldn’t open the bathroom door, her manager called the police. They forced the door open and found Harvey’s bloody, lifeless body on the floor, a suicide.

After being pulled from the ocean by an officer of the Greek freighter Captain Theo, Terry Jo was taken by helicopter to a Miami hospital. A week after her rescue, officials questioned Terry Jo in her hospital bed. Her story, as recounted here, disproved Harvey’s account of the events. Her father, mother, brother, and younger sister, along with Dene Harvey, had been slaughtered aboard the Bluebelle, at the hands of Julian Harvey. The police suspect that Harvey killed his wife to collect money from her life insurance, and one theory suggests that Duperrault caught Harvey in the act, prompting the other murders.

Terry Jo returned to Green Bay to live with her father’s sister and three cousins. When she was 12, she changed her name to Tere. Nearly 50 years later, in 2010, Tere finally revealed the details of the night her family was killed and her days spent drifting in open water in Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean. “I always believed I was saved for a reason,” Tere told CBS News. “If one person heals from a life tragedy [after reading my story], my journey will have been worth it.”