GBI searches for remains of teacher, beauty queen - CBS46 News

GBI searches for remains of teacher, beauty queen who disappeared 11 years ago

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(AP Photo/Elliott Minor, File) (AP Photo/Elliott Minor, File)
Tara Grinstead. (Via: Tara Grinstead. (Via:
Ryan Duke was arrested in the death of Tara Grinstead. (SOURCE: GBI) Ryan Duke was arrested in the death of Tara Grinstead. (SOURCE: GBI)

Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are searching for the remains of Tara Grinstead, a former teacher and beauty queen that went missing 11 years ago.

Forty agents are working with two Kennesaw State University anthropologists on a pecan farm in Fitzgerald, Georgia. The search comes just days after the GBI made an arrest in the mysterious disappearance of Grinstead.

The property owner spoke with CBS46.

"Our sympathies and our prayers go out to the Grinstead family," said Randy Hudson with Hudson Pecan Farms.

"We were asked, or told, that there was perhaps some information that the GBI could garner on our farm and at that time we granted them full and total access and supported anything and everything that they have asked us to support, in fact at this time they have total control of the farm," he said.

Officials say the owners of the property are not related to Grinstead's disappearance or murder.


Thursday, the GBI said Ryan Duke is in Irwin County Sheriff's Office detention center on charges he killed Tara Grinstead. Still, officials confirmed that the teacher's remains have not yet been found.

Podcaster Revitalizes Cold Case

CBS46 reporter Natalie Rubino spoke to an Atlanta man who spent the last year investigating and creating a podcast on Grinstead's case. Payne Lindsey said the case is far from over.

"I do think that there was somebody else involved, at least one person," Lindsey said. "I think that will all come to light eventually."

In the latest episode of his podcast "Up and Vanished" Lindsey aired sound from someone close to the case. The person said Duke talked about Grinstead at a party right after she disappeared.

"There was a party and this kid was drunk and he was talking about killing Tara and dumping her body in a pecan orchard in Fitzgerald," the man told Lindsey.

GBI won't say what lead them to the pecan farm they're now searching. Special Agent in Charge J.T. Ricketson said they've narrowed down areas where they're most likely to find remains.

"We identified some specific areas that we gridded off so we can do a grid search," Ricketson said. "Now they're down there with trowels and spoons and small implements trying to basically dig into the small pieces of the dirt to see if we can collect any evidence."

Irwin County Judge Issues Gag Order

An Irwin County judge issued a gag order late Tuesday afternoon, prohibiting law enforcement from talking about the case.

Many people in Ocilla say Lindsey turned a cold case into a very active one. Hesitant to take credit, Lindsey says he's just happy he brought the case to light again.

"I do think that at the very least the podcast created an atmosphere that got the town talking again. The case was cold and now the case is hot and there's something to be said about that," Lindsey said.

During an arraignment soon after the announcement, Duke was charged with murder, aggravated assault and burglary. He was appointed an attorney by the court and waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

Officials read the warrants in the case aloud, alleging that Duke broke into Grinstead's home on October 23, 2005. They said he killed her and "knowingly, intentionally and willingly remove" her body from the residence to conceal hear death.

Police did not provide a motive, and said that Duke hadn't come up during their investigation previously. They said they did know that Duke attended the school at which Grinstead taught before her disappearance.

Missing posters still posted, 10 years later

Grinstead, a high school teacher and local beauty queen, was 31 when she went missing in October 2005. Since then, no suspect was found and no one was ever charged in the case — until Thursday. 

According to WALB, even in 2015, there were still missing person's posters all over her town and there have yet to be any leads that have led to anything concrete in the case. After she attended an annual beauty pageant and didn't show up to school the next day neighbors knew something was wrong.

"We just realized something's wrong because Tara was never late. And she would never, ever not come to school without notifying somebody," Wendy McFarland, who also taught at Grinstead's school told WALB in 2015.

Police immediately went to her home. They found her cell phone and car all still there but the 30-year-old teacher was gone.

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