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The Georgia teacher went missing in 2005. Now, a man is arrested for her murder.

Ryan Duke hears charges in Tara Grinstead killing

Ryan Alexander Duke said little in court Feb. 23, 2017, as he heard charges against him in the death of Tara Grinstead in October of 2005.
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Ryan Alexander Duke said little in court Feb. 23, 2017, as he heard charges against him in the death of Tara Grinstead in October of 2005.

Authorities have charged Ryan Alexander Duke with murder in the puzzling disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a high school history teacher and former beauty queen who went missing nearly 12 years ago.

Officials made the announcement at a Thursday news conference at the Irwin County Courthouse.

Few details about the arrest or killing were discussed. Authorities said Duke was a student at Irwin County High School and graduated about three years before Grinstead went missing.

A tip led authorities to Duke, said J.T. Ricketson, special agent in charge of the GBI office in Perry.

“The search efforts never ceased,” he said.

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Connie Grinstead said her family always belived her daughter’s disappearance would be solved.

“We just didn’t know when,” she said.

Connie Grinstead, stepmother of former teacher and beauty queen Tara Grinstead, spoke at a press conference on Feb. 23. The GBI announced Ryan Duke was charged with murder in the disappearance of Tara Grinstead in October 2005.

Grinstead’s disappearance has been perhaps Georgia’s, if not the Southeast’s, highest-profile missing persons case. It has been featured prominently on cable news and network television crime shows.

Grinstead, a few weeks shy of her 31st birthday, had gone to a Saturday-night cookout at the home of a former Irwin County school superintendent’s family. When she was reported missing after not showing up to teach at the county high school the following Monday, the clothes she had worn to the cookout were at her house.

Oct. 22, 2005, was the last night anyone is known to have seen her.

Her cellphone was charging in her bedroom. Her purse and keys were missing. Her cat, Herman Talmadge, and her dog, Dolley Madison, were in the house. There were no certain signs of a struggle. A bedroom lamp was broken. Her car, a white Mitsubishi, was parked outside, unlocked.

Over the years, investigators spoke to dozens of people who knew Grinstead, including men she had relationships with. They also interviewed a former student who was arrested in March 2005 for apparently trying to break into her house while she was home.

But those conversations proved futile in finding her or anyone who might have kidnapped or killed her.

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