OCILLA, Ga. (WRBL) – The mystery of a Georgia teacher who vanished without a trace 15 years ago is going to be featured on CBS’s 48 Hours this weekend.
Tara Grinstead, a beloved teacher at Irwin County High School and former Miss Georgia contestant, went missing from her home in Ocilla, Georgia on October 22, 2005. Her family and friends were desperate for any clue as to what had happened to Grinstead.
According to officials with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, foul play was immediately suspected in Grinstead’s disappearance.
In days following the disappearance, a massive search for Grinstead ensued. Many volunteers from the community came out to help in the search being conducted by Ocilla Police, the GBI, and Irwin County Sheriff’s Office. That search however, would turn up no trace of the missing 30-year-old teacher.
Years would go by, but no answers as to what happened to Grinstead would come. During that time, what started as a missing persons case would turn into a murder investigation. GBI investigators interviewed hundreds of people and looked into lead after lead hoping to find some clue or piece of information that would be the break they needed to crack the case.
More than 11 years after Grinstead disappeared that break, in the form of a tip, would finally come for GBI investigators.
In February 2017, Ryan Alexander Duke was arrested in connection to Grinstead’s disappearance. He has been charged with her murder.
Duke had previously attended Irwin County High School where Grinstead was a teacher.
GBI officials believe Duke went to Grinstead’s home to burglarize it and was caught in the act by Grinstead. Investigators believe Duke killed her and then took her body elsewhere to hide it.
Duke has yet to go to trial for Grinstead’s murder.
Investigators say another man helped Duke dispose of Grinstead’s body.
Bo Dukes has been convicted on several charges connected to Grinstead’s disappearance. Dukes, just as Duke, was previously a student at Irwin County High School who had been taught by Grinstead.
During Dukes’ March 2019 trial, a video interview with Dukes was played for the jury. In the video, Dukes detailed what had happened to Grinstead.
According to Dukes, Duke broke into Grinstead’s home, got into her bed, and strangled her to death. Dukes’ Ford F-150 truck was used to move Grinstead’s body to a Fitzgerald pecan orchard off Bowens Mill Highway in Ben Hill County.
Dukes says following the murder, Grinstead’s body was burned over a two day period, leaving only ashes.
Dukes was convicted of two counts of making false statements, hindering the apprehension or punishment of a criminal, and concealing a death.
Dukes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the role he played in the murder of Grinstead.
You can watch the episode of 48 Hours on WRBL News 3 on Saturday, January 2 at 10/9c.
Promo for 48 Hours: The Tara Grinstead Mystery