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Who killed beauty queen Tara Grinstead still a mystery as main suspect acquitted

Shania Wilson May 24, 2022
Credit: Law&Crime Network YouTube.

American high-school teacher and former beauty queen Tara Grinstead went missing in 2005 and was declared dead five years later. What happened to Tara Grinstead has remained a mystery, however, as no-one has been able to locate her body.

In 2017 Ryan Duke, a graduate from the school Tara taught at, confessed to killing Grinstead, claiming he broke into her home. However, Duke recanted his confession and pointed fingers at a friend instead.

Last week Duke was found not guilty of the murder of Tara Grinstead. What is the background to the story?

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Who was Tara Grinstead?

Tara Grinstead was a former pageant queen and history teacher who went missing in 2005 when she was 30 years old. Tara was born and raised in Georgia to parents Bill and Faye Grinstead. She was one of two siblings, alongside sister Anita.

Before attending college, she competed in local beauty pageants. According to the Daily Beast, Grinstead was crowned Miss Tifton in 1999 and also competed in the Miss Georgia beauty pageant.

Reportedly, Grinstead decided to enrol at Valdosta State University for a master’s degree in education after graduating from Middle Georgia College. She would go on to earn herself a job as a teacher.

As per The Sun, those who knew Grinstead described her as smart, talented and kind, and she was reportedly well-liked in the school she taught at.

Tara Grinstead went missing in 2005

In 2005, Tara was teaching history at a Georgia school and was set for a successful career. “She wanted to be a principal, she was well on her way,” her friend Osjha Anderson told CBS News.

Sadly, in October 2005, everything came crashing down. Tara returned home from a party held to help young contestants prepare for an upcoming beauty pageant, the Daily Beast reports. The next morning she failed to turn up for work.

“I knew something was up then. I knew Tara would just not come to school. I think it got all the students’ minds worried,” former student Dana Wilder recalled in 2008.

Two days after she was last seen alive, police went to Grinstead’s home in Ocilla. They found her car in the driveway and her cell phone on charge. The clothes she wore to the party were still in a pile on the bedroom floor.

The history teacher was later declared a missing person and the community united to search for her. Sadly, there were no leads and she was officially declared dead in 2010.

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Ryan Duke confessed but has now been found not guilty of murder 

Tara Grinstead’s case didn’t see a breakthrough until 2017 when Ryan Duke, a former student at the school Tara taught at, came forward with a confession.

As reported by The New York Post, Duke told authorities he was responsible for killing the teacher. At the time, Tara would have been 30 while Duke would have been 21. Reportedly, Duke said he had broken into Grinstead’s home looking for drug money and, when she caught him, he hit her. However, Duke recanted his confession and pointed fingers at his friend Bo Dukes, alleging he was the real killer.

On Friday (20 May 2022) an Irwin County jury acquitted Ryan Duke of the murder of Tara Grinstead, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Online court records confirm Duke, 36, was found not guilty of malice and felony murder. Duke was also found not guilty of aggravated assault and burglary.

Duke said he faked the confession in 2017 because he was under the influence of drugs and was afraid of Bo Dukes. Ryan Duke now faces ten years in prison for the lesser charge of concealing a death. He has already served five years after his ‘confession’.

Bo Dukes made confession but pleaded the Fifth

In 2019, Bo Dukes was convicted of helping conceal Grinstead’s death. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Dukes told investigators he helped Duke burn the body of a woman in 2017 who he claimed Duke had killed by accident on a pecan orchard. Dukes was called to the stand during Duke’s trial but invoked the Fifth Amendment.

After almost two decades since Tara Grinstead disappeared, family and friends are no closer to finding out the truth behind the teacher’s murder or what happened to her body.

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Shania is a Magazine Journalism graduate from the University of Derby. Her main passion is rooted in print journalism, however, she also branches out towards social media and is also interested in public relations. Outside of writing, Shania enjoys using social media, reading, and drinking coffee.