November 26, 2018 Ocilla - Ryan Alexander Duke, charged with the murder of Tara Grinstead, is escorted out after his motion hearings before Chief Judge of the Tifton Circuit Bill Reinhardt at Irwin County Courthouse in Ocilla. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Man charged with Tara Grinstead’s murder seeks $10,000 bond

The man accused of killing a South Georgia teacher is seeking $10,000 bond so he can get out of jail, even while the man charged as his accomplice is on the run from police.

It’s the first time Ryan Alexander Duke has asked for bond since he was arrested in February 2017 and allegedly confessed to investigators that he had killed Grinstead. His attorney, Asleigh Merchant said that he made those statements because he feared Bo Dukes, who was also charged in the murder case, but was granted bond and released from jail.

“Mr. Duke made statements to law enforcement that implicated himself in this crime out of fear for himself and his family,” the motion states. “Since Mr. Dukes was immediately granted bond despite his extensive criminal history and his record of failing to comply with law enforcement, Mr. Duke felt it was safer to remain in custody and remain silent.” The motion requesting bond was served to the Irwin County District Attorney’s Office, a spokesperson said Friday.

But according to a prosecutor not involved with the case, the $10,000 bond amount is low in a murder case.

In this 2006 file photo, missing teacher Tara Grinstead is displayed on a billboard in Ocilla, Ga. 
Photo: Associated Press 

“Very often, and the majority of time when people are charged with murder, they are denied bond,” David Emadi, Douglas County assistant district attorney, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Grinstead, 30, an Irwin County High School teacher, was last seen leaving a party in October 2005. A massive search was launched to find the former beauty queen, but the case remained cold for more than 11 years.

In 2017, the GBI charged Duke with murder after he confessed to investigators — a confession he now claims was false. Days later, a former classmate of Duke’s, Bo Dukes, was arrested and charged with concealing a death. Investigators believe Dukes helped Duke hide and burn Grinstead’s body. Dukes was released on $15,000 bond, but Duke has remained in jail.

In an earlier and separate federal case, Dukes was convicted of government theft and served prison time. He was sentenced to federal prison and released in October 2015, but ordered to return to prison after he failed to pay $130,000 restitution and complete 40 hours of community service, according to court filings. In late November, he was given 45 days to report to prison to serve an additional six months.

But this week, Dukes was again the focus of a criminal investigation. He’s accused of rape and holding two women against their will in his Warner Robins home on New Year’s Day, according to police. Dukes remained the subject of a manhunt Friday with U.S. Marshals assisting in the search.

Including a co-defendant’s whereabouts in a request for bond isn’t the norm, Emadi said.

“I’ve never seen a criminal defendant claim they wanted to stay in jail because they were scared of someone that was out,” he said.

In his request for bond, Duke’s attorney also states he doesn’t have money to pay a high bond. But a judge may choose not to consider that when ruling whether a defendant should get bond in the first place, Emadi said. 

“Only if a judge decides a bond is appropriate does financial resource become a factor to be weighed alongside the other facts and circumstances of the case,” he said.

In November, Duke’s defense attorney asked the court to provide funding to cover the cost of a private investigator and expert witness, but a judge denied that, pointing out that the attorneys volunteered to work “pro bono” or without charge. Now, the attorneys argue that he needs to be granted bond so that he can get a job and contribute to the cost of his defense.

“Mr. Duke seeks the opportunity to be released so he can earn money to afford to pay for these costs that are necessary to insure that he has a fair trial.”

An April 1 trial date has been set.

Investigators believe Dukes brought two women to his home by threatening them with physical violence and a gun.

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