Judge to hear appeals to ‘gag order’ in Tara Grinstead case

The south Georgia judge who signed a sweeping gag order in the Tara Grinstead investigation will now hear arguments against her ruling.

Late last week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News challenged the order issued by Superior Court Judge Melanie Cross, of the Tifton Judicial Circuit, that prohibits police, potential witnesses, court personnel and family members of both Grinstead and her alleged killer from making statements about the case.

Lawyers for the AJC and Channel 2 said the order was entered without notice or a hearing and “sweeps far too broadly to comply with First Amendment rights.”

Other media outlets also filed motions against the gag order, and Cross will hear those motions next week in a hearing in her Irwin County courtroom. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Grinstead, a former Irwin County High School teacher, was reported missing from her Ocilla home in October 2005. She was 30.

The former beauty pageant queen's disappearance made national headlines, but more than 11 years passed before investigators made an arrest in the case. Last month, Ryan Alexander Duke, was arrested and charged with murder for allegedly killing Grinstead.

Last week, a former classmate of Duke's was also charged in the case. Bo Dukes, 32, allegedly helped Duke "conceal and destroy" Grinstead's body, authorities said. Bo Dukes is not related to Ryan Duke.