Personal loss drives Grinstead search volunteer's hunt for answers

Personal loss drives search volunteer

ATLANTA -- The murder of a the south Georgia teacher and beauty queen is still having a profound effect on her small town community more than a decade later.

James Wilcox pulled out an old VHS tape and walked 11Alive’s Ron Jones through his personal search for Tara Grinstead. His video was shot just weeks after her disappearance. 

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"Well I talked to some of them," Wilcox said. "But these were the people on the search team."

Wilcox said that as soon as he learned about her disappearance in 2005, he and several volunteers helped law enforcement scour nearby farms and wooded areas looking for clues. His search began at Grinstead's home.

"I, myself, searched in that area - all in that area - in woods close by the house," Wilcox said.

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Wilcox said he felt compassion for the Grinstead family because he was still trying to solve a family murder mystery too - the vicious killing of his aunt in Jacksonville, Fla. in 1986.  He said it was similar to Tara's demise. 

"They went in the house, whoever it was, killed her dog, killed her,” he said. “They stabbed her about 40 times."

And to this day no one has been arrested. 

► RELATED: Connie Grinstead: 'We always believed it would be solved, we just didn't know when'

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When James learned that 33-year-old Ryan Alexander Duke had been arrested for Tara's murder in late February and that her body may be less than a mile away from his home, he was surprised none of the volunteers came across her body 11 years ago. 

"That is amazing," he said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and law enforcement are not talking about this investigation because a gag order is still in place.

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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