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Tara Grinstead case: Jurors hear opening statements, testimony from her love interests

The state and Duke’s attorneys delivered their opening statements, giving a glimpse on how each side will present and argue their cases.

OCILLA, Ga. — The trial for the man accused of killing Tara Grinstead in Oct. 2005 got off to a quick start Monday with opening statements and testimony from a handful of witnesses.

Ryan Duke faces the maximum penalty of life with the possibility of parole. His charges include malice murder, felony murder, burglary, concealing a death, and aggravated assault.

The state and Duke’s attorneys delivered their opening statements, giving a glimpse on how each side will present and argue their cases. The arguments from both sides went exactly as anticipated.

They focused around the Feb. 2017 confession from Ryan Duke. The GBI says Duke confessed spontaneously and unsolicited to investigators he killed Grinstead.

The prosecution says he confessed to the murder in more than one way – in his interview with agents, by physically writing out in detail what he says he did to murder her, and he also had what the prosecution says is ‘guilty knowledge.’

He told agents details only the person responsible for Grinstead’s death would know.

“He confesses with his writings. He confesses with his actions by walking them out there and showing them the location. He confesses with his knowledge… the phone call… and he confesses with his DNA and prints,” said prosecutor J.D. Hart.

Meanwhile, the defense says the confession was false and though Duke repeatedly confessed, his attorneys say he was under the influence of a narcotic pain medicine. They also say he falsely confessed because he feared Bo Dukes, Ryan’s former friend and roommate, who the defense implied is responsible.

“This case is about power and influence. Ryan Duke has neither. Bo Dukes has both. The state has both,” said Duke’s attorney, Ashleigh Merchant.

Aside from the confession, jurors also heard about the glove – what the state says is the vital piece of evidence found in Grinstead’s front yard. The GBI says the glove contains DNA from two people on it – Grinstead and Duke.

From there, the state called its first witnesses; including Grinstead’s father, a woman she mentored in the pageant world, and some of her love interests.

One of the men who testified was Perry Police Capt. Heath Dykes. He testified he was having an extramarital affair with Grinstead at the time of her disappearance.

Dykes testified he drove an hour and 20 minutes from Perry to Ocilla to check on her Sunday night after not hearing from her throughout the day. He also spoke with Grinstead’s mother, Faye, who told Dykes she also hadn’t heard from Grinstead.

He contacted Tara’s next-door neighbor Monday to ask if he had seen or heard from her. He left more than a dozen voicemails for her, and some of them were played to jurors.

“Sunday, 7:34 p.m.: Hey Tara, please give me a call, I’m kind of getting worried about you now. Please let me know you’re alright.”

Dykes acknowledged it was his voice and said he was pleading with her to call him and let him know she was okay.

Now, the prosecution and defense continuously questioned Dykes about whether he saw a white latex glove in Tara’s front yard when he went to check on her.

In terms of the prosecution’s timeline, Dykes was the first person on the property after the murder allegedly happened. He says he didn’t see a glove in the yard, and it was dark outside.

FOR COMPLETE TESTIMONY

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