BEN HILL COUNTY, Ga. – Another suspect has been arrested in Tara Grinstead’s disappearance, just one week after suspected killer, Ryan Alexander Duke, was charged in the beauty queen’s murder. Both were students at the high school where she was a teacher.
Bo Dukes, 32, was arrested and charged with concealing death, hindering apprehension or punishment of a criminal, tampering with evidence according to the Ben Hill Sheriff’s Department.
According to the arrest warrant:
"Between the dates of October 23 and October 28, 2005... did unlawfully conceal the death of Tara Grinstead, a human being, at the location known to the property owner as Fitzgerald Farms, off Bowen Mill Highway 129, Fitzgerald, Ben County, Ga., which hindered the discovery of and unlawful killing in Grinstead by Ryan Alexander Duke..."
11Alive has confirmed that Dukes' uncle, Randy Hudson, owns Fitzgerald Farms off Bowen Mill Highway 129 in Ben Hill County, the pecan orchard where officials have been searching for Grinstead's remains.
"We are cooperating with the local sheriffs agency and the Georgia Bureau of investigation in regards to this matter on our farm," Hudson said on Wednesday.
Dukes, a Savannah, Ga., native, waived his first court appearance in front of the Hon. Lisa McCard Friday at Ben Hill County Magistrate Court Friday. He was released on a $16,700 bond and left the Ben Hill Sheriff’s Department around 12:30 p.m.
After more than a decade missing, beauty queen and teacher, Tara Grinstead’s family and friends may finally have the answers they’ve been looking for and the authorities finally have a suspect.
Within two days of police receiving a tip regarding the unsolved case, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested Duke and charged with him murder.
Duke, 33, attended Irwin County High School, where Grinstead taught, investigators said. He graduated three years prior to her disappearance and was a classmate of Dukes.
According to warrants, Duke is accused of entering Grinstead's home, burglarizing it and hurting her with his hands. The warrants allege that he tried to conceal her death by removing her body from the home.
Grinstead’s family has asked the community for their continued support.
"So many people have been hurt by this,” Grinstead’s mother said in a press conference announcing Duke's arrest. “We hope with time that so many people in this community can have closure."
The investigation: A look inside the Georgia beauty queen murder case
Charles Mittelstadt, of the Mittelstadt Firm in Atlanta, which conducts criminal defense investigations, said now that it’s been 12 years, it’s moving quickly.
“What it tells me is that we may be looking at a confession here,” he said. “The tip, obviously, led to other interviews and then those interviews may have allowed them to apply some pressure on Duke, which have compelled a confession.”
Now, he said, it’s about corroborating Duke’s possible confession and possibly lead authorities to Grinstead’s remains.
And locating her remains are essential to the case against Duke, Mittelstadt said.
“We see false confessions all the time,” he said. “We’re talking about a case that’s 12 years old and we don’t know anything about the mental health of Duke; we don’t know anything about his criminal history, so I think it becomes important.”
Taking a closer look at the evidence investigators gathered back in 2005, Mittelstadt said, while DNA testing can take several months, they may have accelerated some testing between the latex glove and Duke’s DNA, since the GBI controls the state’s crime lab.
It was the one piece of evidence that investigators really zeroed in on during the initial search for Grinstead and what may have happened to her. it was a single latex glove found adjacent to her house in the yard. After a test, there was trace DNA evidence found in the glove.
However, at that time, they came up empty-handed. No match found.
The suspect "never came up on our radar" during the investigation into Grinstead's disappearance, the GBI said.
Authorities have provided few the details in Grinstead's disappearance or death, but according to arrest warrants, they believe that Duke killed Grinstead during a burglary at her home on Oct. 23, 2005.
The crime scene was consistent with the teacher knowing the alleged suspect, Mittelstadt said.
Since Duke graduated three years earlier as her student, it’s possible, Mittelstadt said, that Grinstead knew him—especially with no signs of struggle or forced entry found at her home.
It was Oct. 22, 2005.
Grinstead, an Irwin County High School teacher, left the Sweet Potato Festival and headed to a cookout with friends. But that’s the last time anyone saw her.
Police found the 30-year-old’s cell phone, car and dog, Dolly Madison, at her Ocilla, Ga., home--about 200 miles south of Atlanta. But her keys and purse were missing. And there was no sign of break-in or signs of struggle.
While police questioned several people close to her, including an ex-boyfriend, no arrests were ever made.
"We knew something was immediately wrong," Wendy McFarland, a co-worker, told 11Alive two years ago. "She was not the kind of teacher that would not show up without alert somebody."
"I realized this thing might really be really bad," Gary Rothwell, who at the time was the Special Agent in Charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation office in Perry, said.
"We treated it as if she had been abducted from the beginning," he said.
Rothwell said the GBI interviewed more than 200 people, never calling any of them a suspect or even a person of interest. Still, they were not able to clear anyone from her disappearance either.
Hundreds poured into the small town, tucked away in the deep south, within 24 hours, setting up a command post, tip lines and scoured the landscape on foot looking for traces of the missing beauty queen.
In 2011, the Irwin County Sheriff said that he received a tip telling him to search near a bridge on Reedy Creek.
A dive team and deputies searched for more than four hours, but found nothing, Special Agent in Charge J.T. Ricketson, of the GBI's Perry office, said.
In February 2015, investigators also drained a pond in Fitzgerald, Ga., in Ben Hill County, after another tip came in, Ricketson said. The pond was a few miles from Grinstead’s home.
Ricketson would not describe the tips or the evidence that was found at that time, as it needed further review and analysis.
"It's an old case, but it's not a cold case," Ricketson said about the file that is now the largest file in the GBI's 80-year history.
Duke was charged with murder, burglary, aggravated assault and concealing death. He is being held without bond and will remain behind bars until a grand jury hears the case, which could be April 12.
Dukes' criminal history
He was arrested and charged with his wife Emily, in 2013 for stealing more than $150,000 worth of U.S. Army property. While he was a unit specialist in the Army, he stole TVs, cameras, power tools, cooper wires and other property, the Southern District of Georgia’s U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The couple, who was 29 years old at the time, pled guilty to conspiring to steal, then sold the items for their own financial benefit.
“Stealing money during a time of war is reprehensible and we, along with our federal counterparts, will continue to do everything in our investigative power to bring those responsible to justice,” Frank Robey, Director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command's Major Procurement Fraud Unit said.
Bo was sentenced to 27 months in prison and was released in 2015, after serving just over two years in federal prison. He was also sentenced to completing 40 hours of community service, paying $134,000 in restitution and three years of supervised release—in which that time, he was required to attend AA meetings once a week for the first 12 months after his release.
READ | Bo Dukes Warrant Docs