The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced a major development in the 11-year-old missing persons case of Tara Grinstead, a 30-year-old schoolteacher and beauty pageant contestant who vanished without a trace in October 2005.
At a press conference on Thursday, authorities announced they had made an arrest in the case, charging Ryan Alexander Duke in Grinstead’s murder.
GBI Special Agent JT Ricketson made the bombshell announcement, confirming that Duke was a student at Irwin County High School in Ocilla, Georgia, at the time that Grinstead was a teacher there. Duke is in custody in Irwin County and charged with one count of first-degree murder.
Ricketson was not able to answer questions about a possible motive or the circumstances of the apparent homicide, but it does appear that the suspect’s connection to the alleged crime was only recently uncovered.
“This gentleman never came up on our radar in our investigation,” Ricketson said in the press conference. He would not answer a reporter question about whether Grinstead’s body was found.
Ricketson said the District Attorney’s office would be answering further questions in the coming weeks.
Grinstead was last seen on October 22, 2005, after attending a gathering at the home of the school superintendent. When she did not report to work for two days, police launched a missing persons investigation and searched her home to find her wallet and keys missing, but her cell phone charging and her car in the driveway. There were no apparent signs of struggle.
The disappearance of the popular woman has plagued the community, her family, and Ocilla investigators for over a decade, with very few leads or clues until now.