Ryan Alexander Duke has been charged with murder stemming from the 2005 disappearance of Georgia teacher and beauty queen Tara Grinstead. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation revealed during a press conference that Duke had been arrested and charged with her murder, over 11 years from when she went missing.
In 2011, investigators continued to pursue leads and the chief investigator from the GBI said that “this case has never gone cold.” He said that leads would come in on a weekly basis.
The GBI had investigated the case extensively and gained new leads recently when someone came forward with new information. More interviews led to them connecting Duke to Grinstead’s disappearance.
Here’s what you need to know about Duke:
1. Duke Was Charged With the Murder of Grinstead
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested Duke, who is 33, for the murder of Tara Grinstead. The GBI announced the arrest and charge at a press conference February 23.
Officials said someone came forward with information and through a series of interviews with subjects that had never been interviews in connection with the case, investigators obtained enough information to arrest Duke. He was taken into custody February 22, and a warrant was issued the day after on February 23.
Duke made his first court appearance February 23 and warrants say that he burglarized Grinstead’s home and used his hands to cause serious bodily harm. According the affidavit, Duke is accused of “removing the body of Tara Grinstead from her home and concealing her death.”
Grinstead was first reported missing from her Ocilla, Georgia home on October 22, 2005. Foul play was immediately suspected, but a lack of evidence had made connecting anyone to the disappearance difficult. Investigators continued to pursue leads, but came up empty with any information on her whereabouts. The GBI promised during the press conference that the investigation is still ongoing and they will interview more people in connection with the case and continue to search for Grinstead’s remains.
2. Duke Went to the Same School Grinstead Taught At
Grinstead taught at Irwin County High School in Ocilla beginning in 1998. She taught 11th-grade history after graduating from Middle Georgia College. She later earned her master’s degree in education from Valdosta State University.
GBI investigators said that Duke had graduated high school three years before her disappearance in 2002.
3. Duke Is a New Suspect to Investigators & Media
Local media covering the story since Grinstead’s appearance in 2005 say that Duke is a completely new suspect in the investigation.
Hundreds of people had been interviewed over the past 11 years, but investigators were still left to little to no leads on the suspect.
In February 2009, videos surfaced online of a “serial killer” who called himself the “Catch Me Killer.” He claimed to have killed 16 females and one of them was described as Grinstead. Police eventually identified the self-proclaimed killer as Andrew Haley, who produced the videos as part of an elaborate, bizarre hoax. He was eliminated as both a suspect and a lead in Grinstead’s disappearance and police went back to the drawing board.
GBI investigators said that Duke “never came up” on their radar while pursuing leads in the case.
4. Grinstead Visited a BBQ & Beauty Pageant the Night Before She Disappeared
The night before she was reported missing, Grinstead visited a local beauty pageant and went to a barbecue later on — Grinstead is a former beauty queen and was an active coach of young beauty pageant participants.
The next day, Grinstead didn’t show up for work and co-workers from the school she was employed became concerned and asked police to check on her well-being.
When they went to her home, officers found her cell phone and her car in the driveway. The car was unlocked, but her keys and purse were gone. An investigation found no noticeable signs of forced entry or a struggle.
Details of Duke’s alleged murder of Grinstead are still coming in and will be updated once they are made available.
5. The Case Gained Exposure on National TV Shows
In 2008, CBS News show “48 Hours” featured Grinstead’s story and the mystery behind the case. A podcast was created in 2016 by documentary film maker Payne Lindsey. It’s titled Up and Vanished and was set to have 18 episodes that would interview members of the community, as well as Grinstead’s friends and family members.