OCILLA, GA — Police have announced that an arrest has been made in the case of a teacher and former beauty queen who vanished 11 years ago.
Ryan Alexander Duke, 33, has been charged with the 2005 killing of Tara Grinstead, 30. He is a former student of the Georgia school where Grinstead taught. Duke graduated from County High School in Ocilla, Georgia, three years before Grinstead was killed.
In addition to being a teacher, Grinstead competed in several Miss Georgia pageants and was crowned Miss Tifton in 1999. Still active in the pageant scene, Grinstead had been helping contestants in a Miss Sweet Potato pageant on the day she disappeared. She then attended a a coworker’s barbecue, after which she disappeared without a trace. The alarm was raised when she failed to show up for work the following Monday.
Her house was reportedly found locked, with her cellphone inside and her car in the driveway. But Grinstead’s purse and keys were missing, and a latex glove was found in her front yard.
Five years after she disappeared, a judge declared Grinstead dead.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said Thursday that a tipster walked into the sheriff’s office a few days ago and provided information that led to several new interviews, and enough probable case for the GBI to obtain an arrest warrant.Duke was arrested on Wednesday and has been charged with concealing a death, burglary, and aggravated assault. The warrant claims that Duke had planned to rob Grinstead, and then “used his hands in an offensive manner” to cause her serious bodily harm. He also allegedly took her corpse out of her house, and her remains have never been found.
Grinstead’s family told reporters that the arrest brings some closure, but also “starts another chapter in a very long and painful journey.”
Main photo: Tara Grinstead [What Happened to Tara Grinstead? Facebook]