Bo Dukes didn't take the stand to defend himself during his four-day trial. But a South Georgia jury heard plenty from Dukes, including two conflicting, recorded conversations with a GBI investigator.
It took the jury less than an hour to convict Dukes on four counts, including two counts of making a false statement, hindering the apprehension of a criminal and concealing the death of another.
Dukes initially claimed he didn't know anything about the 2005 disappearance and death of Tara Grinstead, a 30-year-old high school history teacher. Months later, Dukes confessed. He hadn't killed Grinstead, he told the GBI, but he had helped burn her body for two days on his family's pecan farm.
"He wants to blame everybody but himself," District Attorney Brad Rigby said during closing statements."By his own mouth, he convicts himself."
Prosecutors called approximately 20 people to the stand during the trial for Dukes, one of two defendants charged in the Grinstead case. Grinstead, a former beauty queen and Irwin County High School teacher, was last seen alive in October 2005.
Despite a massive search and national publicity into her disappearance, no arrests were made in the case until February 2017. Ryan Alexander Duke was charged with Grinstead’s murder, and Dukes was arrested days later. Investigators believe Duke killed Grinstead and asked Dukes for help destroying her body. Duke is scheduled for trial April 1 in Irwin County.
During this week's trial, an anthropologist testified that only scattered bone and tooth fragments, believed to have belonged to Grinstead, were found at the pecan farm.
Even though the case was cold for many years, Dukes told others about his involvement in Grinstead's disappearance years before, according to testimony during his trial.
In 2006, an Army friend, John McCullough, spent the Christmas holidays with Dukes' family. After a night of drinking, Dukes told McCullough he knew what had happened to the woman whose face was on billboards and signs around town.
Dukes initially claimed he couldn't remember McCullough's name, and he didn't remember the conversation. His attorney called McCullough an "unreliable narrator" during his closing statements.
"Do you remember conversations from 10 years ago?" John Fox, Dukes' defense attorney, asked the jurors.
Fox also blamed the GBI for not acting on tips it received years before Dukes and Duke were arrested.
"This is a failure organization-wide," Fox said. “You can not conceal what is already known to the GBI."
The jury disagreed. Sentencing for Dukes is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday morning.
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