Suspects in missing teacher’s death admitted slaying, court documents say

Two former students of a south Georgia teacher missing since 2005 told friends at a party that they had killed her and burned her body, new court documents suggest.

Ex-students Ryan Alexander Duke and Bo Dukes reportedly made the stunning admission within two weeks of Tara Grinstead’s disappearance in October 2005, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, citing court documents.

Documents filed this week in Irwin County Superior Court said their comments were reported to police but they weren’t arrested until 2017.

Ryan Alexander Duke, shown in February 2017, is one of the suspects in the disappearance and murder of Tara Grinstead. (Georgia Bureau of Investigation)

“It is undisputed that Irwin County law enforcement knew of these crimes within months of the disappearance of Tara Grinstead,” a court motion states. “In fact, a search of the area where Ms. Grinstead’s body was allegedly burned was conducted … “

Duke’s attorneys say in court motions that because it took so long to arrest them, all but the murder charge should be dropped, due to the statute of limitations.

Grinstead, 30, an Irwin County High School teacher and former beauty queen, was last seen Oct. 22, 2005, when she left a cookout and said she was going straight home.

Two days later, she was reported missing when she didn’t show up to teach history.

Her house was found locked, with her cellphone inside. Her dog and cat were home and her car sat parked in the driveway. But Grinstead’s purse and keys were gone.

A latex glove — the type worn by police officers and medical workers — was found in her front yard.

“So many people have been hurt by this,” Connie Grinstead, Tara’s stepmother, said. “We hope with time this community can have closure and start to heal from this.”

“So many people have been hurt by this. … We hope with time this community can have closure and start to heal from this.”

– Connie Grinstead, Tara Grinstead’s stepmother

Investigators said Duke had attended the high school and graduated in 2002, three years before Grinstead’s disappearance.

Because Duke and Dukes were identified as suspects later in 2005 but not charged until 2017, all but the murder charge should be dropped, Duke’s public defenders claim in one of two dozen motions filed in the past week.

“Duke and Dukes were identified as suspects and known to law enforcement in 2005,” the motion states. “By a generous application of the statute of limitations of four years, the statute would have run (expired) near December of 2009.”

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The Georgia Bureau of Investigation declined to comment and referred questions to the district attorney who could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

In another motion, Duke’s attorney asked that his indictment be dismissed because the language used is too “vague, ambitious and indefinite.”

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.

A hearing on the motions has been scheduled for Sept. 20 in Irwin County.

The Associated Press and Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report.