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Judge again rejects state funds for Tara Grinstead's accused killer

Ryan Duke is accused of killing Tara Grinstead, and his case could be headed back to the Georgia Supreme Court

OCILLA, Ga. — The case of Ryan Duke, the man accused of killing Tara Grinstead more than 14 years ago, could be headed back to Georgia's Supreme Court for the third time.

An Irwin County judge ruled again on Friday that the state should not pay for private investigators and experts to help Ryan Duke prepare for his trial.

Lawyers on both sides have wrangled over the money issue for more than a year.

In an order filed Friday, Judge Bill Reinhardt wrote that Duke gave up the right to state funding when he chose private defense lawyers instead of court-appointed public defenders.

The Merchant Law Firm of Marietta is defending Duke pro-bono.

Duke's lawyers want the state to pay for investigators to help them prepare for trial. 

They argue that the lack of investigators threatens Duke's right to a fair trial.

RELATED: Prosecution, defense agree to send Ryan Duke case back to Georgia Supreme Court

But Reinhardt wrote that Duke doesn't need those investigators and experts to get an "adequate defense."

One of Duke's defense lawyers, Ashleigh Merchant, has said they'll likely appeal the case back to Georgia's Supreme Court. WMAZ could not reach Merchant for comment Monday morning.

In June, the state's highest court said they could not even hear arguments over the funding question unless Reinhardt agreed.

RELATED: Tara Grinstead case: Georgia Supreme Court denies accused killer's appeal

According to his assistant, Reinhardt has not yet issued an order letting Duke appeal.

Tara Grinstead, an Irwin County High School teacher, went missing in October 2005. Three years ago, the GBI charged Duke with killing her and hiding her body in a pecan orchard. No trial date has been set.

RELATED: Tara Grinstead case: Who is Ryan Duke?

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