Georgia Teacher and Former Beauty Queen Was Killed 17 Years Ago, Former Student at School Is on Trial

Ryan Duke is accused in the 2005 killing of popular high school teacher Tara Grinstead

Tara Grinstead
Tara Grinstead. Photo: Georgia Bureau of Investigation

The process of seating a jury for Ryan Duke's impending murder trial has begun in Georgia, where he's denied having any involvement in the presumed murder of Tara Grinstead.

Court officials confirm hundreds of jurors reported for duty Monday morning.

The process will unfold inside the Irwin County Courthouse in Ocilla, and FOX 5 Atlanta reports it could take nearly two weeks to seat a jury.

In 2017, Duke was charged in connection with the killing of a former beauty queen and popular high school teacher in 2005, when he was 21.

Duke had graduated from the same school where Grinstead taught history.

Duke faces malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, burglary, and concealing a death charges stemming from Grinstead's disappearance.

Grinstead was last seen alive leaving a dinner party on Oct. 22, 2005.

The 30-year-old was never seen again, and the location of her body remains a mystery.

Grinstead was a former Miss Tifton who had competed in the Miss Georgia pageant three times.

Two days after she was last seen alive, police went to Grinstead's home in Ocilla. There, they found her car in the driveway, and her cell phone charging at a wall outlet. The clothes she'd worn to the dinner party before disappearing were still in a pile on the bedroom floor.

But there was no sign of her.

Tara Grinstead
Elliott Minor/AP Photo

Police allege Grinstead's car was unlocked, and that there was $100 untouched in the center console.

The driver's seat was pushed almost all the way back, indicating that someone other than the 5-foot-3 teacher had last driven her car. There was clay and mud around the tires and fenders. And a latex glove was found in her front yard, but DNA testing came back inconclusive.

Grinstead's bedside clock had been found under her bed; the time was six hours off. A broken lamp was found propped against a wall.

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Grinstead's disappearance was thrust back into the limelight with the 2016 launch of the true-crime podcast Up and Vanished. Like Serial and other podcasts before it, the series focused deeply on one unsolved case.

Police have never discussed what the nature of Duke's relationship with Grinstead was.

In March 2019, Duke's friend, Bo Dukes, 37, was convicted of helping conceal Grinstead's death. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Bo Dukes told investigators in 2017 he helped Duke burn the body of a woman he'd accidentally killed.

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