Bo Dukes (right) was arrested and charged in connection with the death of Irwin County teacher Tara Grinstead.

Tara Grinstead murder case: Trials for 2 suspects set 2 weeks apart

The two men accused in the death of a South Georgia teacher and former beauty queen are expected to have their days in court in the coming weeks — more than 13 years after her death. 

Bo Dukes and Ryan Alexander Duke, former friends and roommates, are both accused in Tara Grinstead’s 2005 death. And the two allegedly told friends at a party what happened to the 30-year-old Irwin County history teacher just weeks after her disappearance. 

But Duke and Dukes, who are not related, weren’t charged in the case until February 2017, when the GBI received new information about the case. Investigators believe Duke killed Grinstead and Dukes helped conceal her body. 

“I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused,” Duke told GBI investigators the day of his arrest. “I took her life, robbed her of a chance to get married and have children, growing old, and she didn’t deserve that and there is nothing I can do to change it.”

November 26, 2018 - 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. 

But the two former classmates are now at odds over what really happened: Duke now says he falsely confessed while under the influence of drugs and it was Dukes who killed Grinstead. 

Dukes will be the first to be tried in the case, prosecutors said Friday. His trial is set to begin March 18 in Wilcox County.

Two weeks after that, murder suspect Duke is scheduled to go on trial on April 1 in Irwin. A judge denied his defense team’s motion for a delay.

Both men were behind bars on Friday. 

According to investigators, Duke claimed he broke into Grinstead’s home to steal money, and when she confronted him, he punched her and killed her. Dukes then allegedly helped his friend burn Grinstead’s body for several days at a pecan farm in a neighboring county.

Grinstead was last seen alive at a party on Oct. 22, 2005, hours after she helped contestants prepare for a pageant. When she failed to show up in her classroom two days later, a massive search was launched to find her, and it became a national news story. The reward for information grew, but no trace of Grinstead was found.

In April 2017, a grand jury indicted Duke on six counts, including malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, burglary and concealing the death of another. In June 2017, Dukes was indicted on charges including concealing a death, tampering with evidence, and hindering apprehension of a criminal.

Dukes again made headlines in January, when he allegedly assaulted two women in his Warner Robins home and became the subject of a five-day manhunt. He was arrested at a relative’s home

Ryan Duke pled with a judge to release him on bond. He was arrested in 2017, 12 years after Tara Grinstead disappeared.

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