A jury has found Ryan Duke not guilty in the 2005 murder of Tara Grinstead. The verdict came earlier today after the trial began last week, 16 years after Tara Grinstead was last seen at her home in Ocilla, Georgia. Her remains have never been found.
On February 23, 2017, 33 year old Ryan Alexander Duke was arrested and charged with burglary, aggravated assault, murder, and concealing a death in connection to Tara Grinstead’s murder.
Investigators believe that on the evening of October 22, 2005, Ryan Duke burglarized Grinstead’s home and strangled her when she caught him in the act. He later moved her body from the house to a remote part of a pecan orchard owned by his friend Bo Dukes’ family where they disposed of the body together.
The jury acquitted Ryan Duke of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and burglary, but did find him guilty of concealing a death. The jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon and continued for two hours this morning.
During his trial Duke took the stand and proclaimed his innocence, saying what he told investigators regarding Tara’s death referred to the actions of Bo Dukes.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday, and faces a sentence of 1-10 years in prison.
Update: On May 23, 2022, Ryan Duke was sentenced to the maximum 10 years for concealing the death of Tara Grinstead.
This was the second trial related to Tara Grinstead’s murder.
In 2019, Bo Dukes, a friend of Ryan Duke, went on trial for attempting to conceal the death of another, hindering apprehension of a criminal, tampering with evidence, and two counts of making false statements. He was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Both men attended Irwin County High School where Grinstead was employed as a teacher.
Bo confessed that in October 2005, his friend Ryan Dukes killed Grinstead and dumped her body at his family owned pecan farm off Bowens Mill Highway in Ben Hill County, Georgia.
During the following two days, Bo helped his friend cover Grinstead’s body with wood and burn it in a fire pit until it turned to ash. Authorities searched the farm and recovered scattered bone and tooth fragments, but they were too small for DNA testing.