Authorities in Ocilla, Georgia announced Thursday they arrested a man on murder charges in the disappearance of a high school teacher in rural Georgia, in 2005
30-year-old Tara Grinstead, a history teacher at Irwin County High School and former beauty queen has been missing since Oct 22, 2005 from her home in Ocilla, about 165 miles south of Atlanta
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested 33-year-old Ryan Alexander Duke, Wednesday, for the murder of Tara Grinstead, 11 years ago
Following a tip, GBI investigators interviewed several people who had not been previously questioned, iinformation from those interviews led to Duke’s arrest
The suspect attended the high school where Grinstead taught, and graduated three years before her disappearance
Grinstead’s remains has not been found, police believe Duke took her body from her home to conceal her death
He is charged with the murder of Tara Grinstead, burglary, aggravated assault and concealing a death
Ryan Alexander Duke makes his first appearance in court
Authorities in Ocilla, Georgia announced Thursday that they arrested a man on murder charges in the disappearance of a high school teacher in rural south Georgia more than 11 years ago.
Ryan Alexander Duke, 33, was being held in the Irwin County jail days after investigators received a tip linking him to the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a teacher and former beauty queen missing since October 22, 2005.
“We did find the person that was responsible for Tara’s death,” J.T. Ricketson, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said at a courthouse news conference in Ocilla, about 165 miles south of Atlanta.
Duke had attended Irwin County High School, where Grinstead taught history, about three years before she vanished, Ricketson said.
He declined comment on how the suspect knew the victim and would not say if authorities know what became of Grinstead’s body.
30-year-old beauty queen, Tara Grinstead, disappeared from her home and has not been heard from since Saturday, October 22, 2005.
Tara attended a pageant on Saturday evening at the Grand Theater in Fitzgerald, visited with friends for dinner afterwards and then went home.
Two days later a missing person’s report was made by neighbors and coworkers who were concerned about her well being, when she did not did not show up for work and they were unable to reach her. Investigators found her house was locked and her car parked at her home. The only items known to be missing were her purse and keys.
Neighbors and colleagues filed a missing person’s report when Tara Grinstead, didn’t show up for work
Connie Grinstead, the missing woman’s stepmother, told reporters she thanked God “for answered prayers.”
“We always believed that it would be solved,” she said, reading a statement at the courthouse news conference. “We just did not know when.”
It was not immediately known if Duke, 33, had a defense attorney.
Grinstead was 30 when she was last seen Oct. 22, 2005. The former Miss Tifton 1999 had spent the day helping contestants in a Miss Sweet Potato pageant in nearby Fitzgerald and then attended a cookout with friends in Ocilla. She was reported missing two days later when she failed to report to work.
Missing person billboard for Tara Grinstead
Her house was found locked, with her cellphone inside. Her dog and cat were home and her car sat parked in the driveway. But Grinstead’s purse and keys were gone. A latex glove was found in her front yard.
Police classified Grinstead as a missing person, saying there was no evidence she had been abducted. Still, authorities said they also couldn’t rule out foul play.
Her car sat parked in the driveway. The house was found locked, with her pets and cellphone inside.
An intense outpouring of support followed in Ocilla, as volunteers searched the area and set up a Tara Command Center with a telephone tip line and a website, http://www.findtara.com.
Rewards of $100,000 were offered for Grinstead’s safe return or for information leading to an arrest and conviction if she was harmed. Her family members appeared on nationally televised crime shows to plead for information. There were no breakthroughs for more than a decade until as Ricketson said Thursday, investigators linked Duke to Grinstead. He said a person, whom he declined to name, approached authorities with a tip days earlier.
“This gentleman [Duke] never came up on our radar through the investigation,” Ricketson said. Asked if more arrests were possible, he said, “That’s a very good question. Again, we have several more interviews to do.”
Ryan Alexander Duke has been charged with murder, burglary, aggravated assault and concealing death in the case of Tara Grinstead
Five years after she vanished in 2010, a probate judge declared the missing teacher dead at her father’s request.
In the Grinstead case,police chased numerous leads that went nowhere. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation with help from the local police and sheriff’s departments. The GBI interviewed an ex-boyfriend who had dated the missing woman for six years, as well as other male friends, but no charges were brought.
“So many people have been hurt by this,” Grinstead’s stepmother said. “We hope with time this community can have closure and start to heal from this.”