Arrest Finally Made in 2005 Disappearance and Murder of a Georgia Teacher and Beauty Queen

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has arrested Ryan Alexander Duke and accused him of Tara Grinstead's murder

Photo: AP Photo/Elliott Minor

Tara Grinstead left a dinner party on Oct. 22, 2005, telling her friends that she was heading straight home.

Two days later, when the 30-year-old failed to show up for her job as a history teacher at Irwin County High School, her co-workers called police and reported her missing.

Cops couldn’t find any known enemies of Grinstead. A trained singer, she had been crowned Miss Tifton (Georgia) and had competed in the Miss Georgia pageant three times. She was a popular history teacher known for her quick sense of humor and hearty laugh. An animal lover, she had a dog and a cat.

For more than 11 years, she remained missing and her case went cold.

But on Thursday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced an arrest in her death. Ryan Alexander Duke, now 33, is charged with murder, burglary, aggravated assault, murder and concealment of a body. Duke is a former student at the school where Grinstead taught. He had graduated before she vanished, GBI Special Agent J.T. Ricketson told reporters in a news conference.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation via AP

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While Duke is charged with murder, the GBI declined to tell reporters how Grinstead died or whether her body has been found.

Ricketson said that the GBI had received a tip several days ago. After subsequent interviews, investigators believe that they had probable cause to arrest Duke. He is being held at the Irwin County Jail. He has yet to be arraigned, and it’s unclear if he has an attorney.

Before the tip, “this gentleman had never come up on our radar,” Ricketson said in the news conference.

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In a preliminary hearing, on Thursday afternoon, Chief Magistrate Heather Culpepper read Duke the charges against him. Police believe that broke into the house to burglarize it, and killed Grinstead in the course of committing the burglary. Then, they say, he removed her body from the house and concealed it elsewhere.

Duke has declined an additional hearing and will remain in jail until a grand jury convenes on April 12.

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