Tara Grinstead murder case

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Tara Grinstead
Tara Grinstead.jpg
Tara Faye Grinstead

(1974-11-14)November 14, 1974
DisappearedOctober 22, 2005 (aged 30)
Ocilla, Georgia, U.S.
StatusDeclared dead in absentia in December 2010[1]
EducationMiddle Georgia College
Valdosta State University
Weight100–110 lb (45–50 kg)

Tara Faye Grinstead (born November 14, 1974) was an American beauty queen and high school history teacher who lived in Ocilla, Georgia, and has been missing since October 22, 2005.

On February 23, 2017, a press conference was held by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) formally announcing that a tip had been received, leading to the arrest of Ryan Alexander Duke for the murder and concealment of Grinstead.[3] In addition, on March 3, 2017, a supplementary arrest was made public in connection with Grinstead's disappearance: Duke's former classmate Bo Dukes (no familial relation) was charged with attempting to conceal a death, hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence.[4]

Early life[edit]

A native of Hawkinsville, Georgia, Grinstead won the title of Miss Tifton in 1999 and competed in the Miss Georgia beauty pageant.[5] Her winnings from this pageant and many others she had entered helped her pay for college.[6] Grinstead graduated from Middle Georgia College in Georgia and, in 2003, earned a master's degree in education at Valdosta State University. In 1998, she began teaching history at Irwin County High School in Ocilla.[5]


On October 21, 2005, the night before her disappearance, Grinstead visited a beauty pageant (she was active as a coach to young contestants) and attended a barbecue.[7] On October 24, a Monday morning, she did not show up for work. Co-workers called police, who went to the home where she lived alone. They found Grinstead's cell phone inside the house and her car was outside, unlocked. Her purse and keys were gone.[8][9]

Local police immediately called in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), feeling that "something was wrong" and the case was beyond the resources of the small town police department. The GBI found no signs of forced entry and no sign of a struggle.[7]

Irwin County High School principal Bobby Conner was quoted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as saying, "We're a small community and this has really touched home because it is something you read about happening elsewhere. This is someone with a tremendous, magnetic personality, and the kids just love her."[10]


In 2008, the Grinstead case received renewed attention with a report on the CBS News show 48 Hours Mystery, which noted the similarity of Grinstead's disappearance to that of another young woman, Jennifer Kesse, in Orlando, Florida, three months later.[6]

In connection with that 48 Hours story, police revealed that they had found DNA on a latex glove that was found in Grinstead's yard, "just a stone's throw from her front stoop", according to an interview with Gary Rothwell of the GBI:

Rothwell did not identify as a suspect the person whose DNA was found in the glove, but he said that person could help lead to a break in the case. "We believe it is a critical element to solving the case," Rothwell said.
Rothwell said the DNA has been analyzed and agents know it's a man's DNA. But they haven't identified the man. Over the course of the investigation, he said, agents have compared the DNA to dozens of men who knew Grinstead or who were associated with her. "None of them matched," Rothwell said. The DNA also has been entered into Georgia and national databases, but still no matches."[8]

In February 2009, videos surfaced on the Internet featuring a self-proclaimed serial killer.[11] Dubbing himself the "Catch Me Killer", the man in the videos details what he claims are his sixteen female victims, and one of these women was determined by authorities to be Grinstead. Although the man's face and voice are digitally obscured, police eventually determined the videos' source to be 27-year-old Andrew Haley. A police investigation revealed the videos to be part of a bizarre, elaborate hoax, and Haley was ultimately eliminated as a substantial lead in Grinstead's disappearance.[12]

In 2011, the chief GBI investigator said: "this case has never gone cold", adding that leads still come in on a weekly basis.[7][13]

Running from 2016-2017, the Up and Vanished podcast was credited by officials and media for helping shed new light on the evidence and reigniting public interest in the case.[14][15][16]

On February 23, 2017, the GBI announced they had received a tip which led to the arrest of Ryan Alexander Duke for Grinstead's murder.[17] About three years before her disappearance, Duke had attended Irwin County High School, where Grinstead was employed as a teacher.[18] According to warrants read in court, Duke burgled Grinstead's home, and when she caught him in the act, he strangled her and removed her body from the house.[18][19] Another arrest, on March 3, 2017, was made public in connection with Tara's disappearance. Bo Dukes, a former classmate of Duke with no familial relation, was charged with attempting to conceal a death, hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence. Grinstead's sister, Anita Gattis, said she has known Bo Dukes' family for years but never connected him with any part of her sister's disappearance.[4]

In August 2017, a grand jury filed four new charges against Dukes: two counts of making false statements, one count of hindering apprehension of a criminal and one count of concealing the death of another. These additional charges are based on a Wilcox County indictment stating that Dukes had lied to a GBI official who questioned him in 2016 concerning the disappearance of Grinstead. The trial of Bo Dukes began on March 19, 2019.[20][21] Ryan Duke‘s murder trial is presently set for April 1, 2019.[22]

After Ryan Duke and Bo Dukes were arrested, Irwin County Judge Melanie Cross issued a gag order prohibiting anyone involved with the case from talking about it in order to protect Ryan Duke's right to a fair trial.[23] Georgia television stations WMAZ and WXIA challenged the order in court which resulted in Judge Cross relaxing the order, but still, "restricted public comment by anyone working with the prosecution or defense, court staff, and current and former police officers on the case."[23] WMAZ and WXIA again took this order to court and the case went to the Supreme Court of Georgia in October 2017.[23] In March 2018 the gag order was tossed out in a unanimous opinion.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Castro, A. (11 February 2015). "Search reopens in disappearance of Tara Grinstead". 41NBC News. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  2. ^ "Missing Person Case". www.namus.gov. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  3. ^ Tara Grinstead missing: Ex-student used hands to kill teacher in home, warrant says. CBS News / AP, February 24, 2017
  4. ^ a b Thomas, Tony (3 March 2017). "Tara Grinstead's sister says she's known suspect's family for years: 'It's unreal'" (video). WSB-TV 2. Atlanta, GA: Cox Media Group.
  5. ^ a b Mikkilineni, Rupa. "Missing beauty queen was mending broken heart". Archived from the original on 30 September 2008. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Stolen Beauty". 48 Hours. CBS News. July 1, 2008. Retrieved July 13, 2012.
  7. ^ a b c Carter, Allen (November 9, 2011). "Special Report: What happened to Tara Grinstead?". mysouthwestga.com. Fox 31. Retrieved July 13, 2012.
  8. ^ a b Womack, Amy Leigh (July 1, 2008). "GBI Releases New Info In Tara Grinstead Case". The Telegraph (Macon). Archived from the original on March 25, 2012. Retrieved July 13, 2012.
  9. ^ "Possible new leads in Tara Grinstead case". WFXL Fox 31. February 16, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  10. ^ Montgomery, Bill (November 3, 2005). "Search finds no clues about missing teacher". Atlanta Journal and Constitution.
  11. ^ Wright Gazaway (February 11, 2015). "People hope Grinstead case will be solved soon". Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  12. ^ "Catch me killer says he's guilty of hoax". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  13. ^ Search reopens in disappearance of Tara Grinstead Archived June 20, 2015, at the Wayback Machine 41 NBC Retrieved June 19, 2015
  14. ^ ""How I helped solve a decade-old missing person's case with my podcast"". August 20, 2018. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  15. ^ "How the Up and Vanished Podcast Helped Crack a 2005 Cold Case". Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  16. ^ Locker, Melissa (March 17, 2017). "How 'Up and Vanished' Podcast Helped Solve Cold Murder Case". Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  17. ^ Chamberlain, Samuel (February 23, 2017). "Tara Grinstead: Ex-student accused of murdering missing Georgia teacher". Fox News. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  18. ^ a b "Tara Grinstead's murderer used his hands to kill her". Nydailynews.com. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  19. ^ "Tara Grinstead was killed during a burglary at her home, warrants say". Macon.com. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  20. ^ "First trial begins in death of missing Georgia teacher". Fox News / Associated Press. March 19, 2019. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  21. ^ "Man charged with helping burn beauty queen's body faces new charges". Contributing: WXIA-TV, Atlanta. MACON, Ga.: USA TODAY. 7 September 2017. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  22. ^ Thomas, Tony. "Murder trial in Tara Grinstead case set for April". wsbtv.com. Cox Media Group. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  23. ^ a b c Beimfohr, Chelsea (October 24, 2017). "Georgia Supreme Court hears gag order arguments in Grinstead case". WMAZ. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  24. ^ "Tara Grinstead case: Ga. high court tosses gag order in killing of long-missing beauty queen". Retrieved 2018-06-07.

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