Tara Grinstead’s Case: Her Disappearance & Murder Trial

A family photo of murdered Georgia teacher Tara Grinstead

Investigation Discovery A family photo of murdered Georgia teacher Tara Grinstead

Tonight on Dateline NBC, Andrea Canning will investigate the disappearance of history teacher and former Georgia beauty queen Tara Grinstead.

The episode will feature interviews with Grinstead’s friend Maria Harber, her ex-boyfriend Marcus Harper and Tara’s former student Dana Wilder. It took place in Ocilla, Georgia.

According to the synopsis for the episode, when she went missing, “detectives begin an investigation that will span over a decade. Just when it seemed the mystery would never be solved, a twist changes everything. The broadcast features new details and interviews with key players in the case.”


Tara Grinstead Went Missing in October 2005: What Happened?

On October 21, 2005, Tara Grinstead visited a beauty pageant where she was set to coach young contestants and attend a barbecue.

The 30-year-old high school history teacher then vanished, raising alarm bells when she didn’t show up to work three days later. Her car, according to Fox 31, was still in her carport and her cell phone was still on her nightstand. Her purse and her keys, however, were missing.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called in on day one of the investigations.

“We didn’t have any signs of forced entry, there was no sign of a struggle,” Gary Rothwell, of the GBI, told My Southwest Georgia. “But that’s not to say that something could have happened. We can’t rule that out but there were no obvious signs of violence in the residence.”

He also said that Tara had been engaged in romantic relationships, which were the subject of focus for them initially. Six years went by with no suspects, but GBI did not say that the case was a cold case even six years later in 2011.

The Up and Vanished podcast has been credited by officials and media for helping shed new light on the case in 2016 and 2017.

On February 23, 2017, the GBI announced that they received a tip leading to the arrest of Ryan Alexander Duke, who had attended Irwin County High School where Grinstead was a teacher.

According to warrants, Duke burgled Grinstead’s home and strangled her when he was caught in the act.

On March 3, 2017, another arrest was made in connection with the disappearance. Bo Dukes was charged with attempting to conceal a death, hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence.


Ryan Duke and Bo Duke Were Charged in the Disappearance and Murder

In August 2017, a grand jury filed four new charges against Bo Dukes. Two were for making false statements and one was of hindering the apprehension of a criminal, and the other was for concealing the death of another.

The trial of Bo Dukes began on March 19, 2019, and he was found guilty for his role in helping cover up the murder. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison on March 22, 2019.

On April 1, 2019, Ryan Duke’s murder trial was set to begin, but it was delayed after Duke’s lawyers said they were unconstitutionally denied funds for experts to testify on Duke’s behalf.

In February 2020, the Supreme Court of Georgia accepted an appeal in the murder case, and the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the funding issue later this year.

That funding issue has been what has delayed the murder trial.

Tune into Dateline NBC to see an update on the case.

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