Who killed Tara Grinstead? In 2017 Ryan Duke CONFESSED to the murder, now he's been found NOT GUILTY
IRWIN COUNTY, GEORGIA: A 36-year-old man, who had previously confessed to murdering a former beauty pageant queen, was found not guilty of the crime on Friday, May 20, after he changed his story.
Ryan Duke, 36, told local authorities just moments after entering the police station in 2017 that he had killed high school teacher Tara Grinstead back in 2005. However, an Irwin County jury acquitted him on May 20 of the murder charge but found him guilty of concealing her death instead, which could send him to prison for a maximum of ten years.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ryan Duke said on the witness stand that he faked his confession as he was under the influence of drugs and that he was afraid of his friend Bo Dukes, who he alleged was Grinstead's real killer. Ryan Duke was arrested for involvement in the case shortly after Dukes (no relation) was taken into custody in 2017.
BREAKING: The jury in the #TaraGrinstead murder trial of State v Ryan Duke has found #RyanDuke NOT GUILTY of the murder of the South Georgia Teacher and Beauty Queen— Phil Holloway™ ⚖️✈️ 😁 (@PhilHollowayEsq) May 20, 2022
Guilty only on Count 6 - Concealing a Death#RyanDukeTrial pic.twitter.com/ryZe1hHnvD
During his 2017 confession, Duke said he broke into Grinstead's residence for drug money and that he hit her when she caught him. Police also said he knew details of the murder that weren't previously released. “I don’t feel like I deserve to be free to breathe,” Duke wrote in his 2017 confession. “I can’t begin to comprehend the pain I have caused to her family and loved ones.” However, Duke claimed on the stand that Dukes told him that he killed Grinstead in October 2005. He admitted to helping with burning the corpse. Investigators located only bone and teeth fragments, as the body was badly burned. These remains were not enough to collect DNA.
#RyanDuke said he was afraid of Bo Dukes when he confessed to GBI. Before he left home to meet GBI he decided to take the blame because he was afraid of Bo, didn't think Bo would ever fess up pic.twitter.com/voahzMtIXV— Phil Holloway™ ⚖️✈️ 😁 (@PhilHollowayEsq) May 17, 2022
Grinstead was a former Miss Tifton who had participated in the Miss Georgia pageant three times, according to People magazine. “Tara lost her life,” said Grinstead's stepmother Connie Grinstead, as quoted by AJC. “And that left a hole in our life that can never be filled. We will feel the pain of this loss for as long as we live.”
Duke could receive up to 10 years in connection with Grinstead's death. However, the court will have to give him credit for time served as he has already spent five years behind bars. Grinstead's sister Anita Gattis said ten years wasn't enough for Duke. “16 years. 6 months, and 27 days,” Gattis told the court of how long Grinstead had been gone, as quoted by WMAZ. “The maximum he can serve for concealing the death of another is 10 years. That’s only seven years less than the sentence [that] I and the rest of Tara’s family and friends have experienced due to his revolting and villainous action.”
Duke, who testified that Dukes threatened him, told the court he was now telling the truth because the latter is in prison. "Bo Dukes was convicted of federal charges and sentenced to 27 months of jail time in 2013. He was not released until 2017. I would like to ask Ryan why he did not come forward at that time and confess," Gattis said.
BREAKING: The judge WILL allow the defense to call Bo Dukes. Everyone knows he'll likely assert the 5th and the state was fighting against him doing that in front of the jury. Defense will ask Bo about other convictions. #TaraGrinstead #RyanDuke pic.twitter.com/NqgNuChkZR— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) May 17, 2022
"His testimony on the stand only seemed coached, well-rehearsed for self-serving benefits. It was amazing how great his memory was after spending some time in jail," Grinstead alleged. "Ryan may have been acquitted on several charges, but does that make him innocent? Absolutely not!" Gattis added.