Georgia man convicted of concealing death of teacher, ex-beauty queen

A Georgia jury on Thursday convicted a man accused of helping to conceal the 2005 murder of a high school teacher and onetime beauty queen and lying to law enforcement about her death.

Bo Dukes, 34, was convicted on two counts of making a false statement, one count of hindering the apprehension of a criminal, and one count of concealing the death of another. He is due to be sentenced at 9 a.m. Friday and faces up to 25 years in prison.

Dukes is the first of two suspects to stand trial in the death of Tara Grinstead, who was last seen alive in October 2005. Her fate was a mystery in her hometown of Ocilla, about 90 miles southeast of Macon, until Dukes and his best friend, Ryan Duke, were arrested in February 2017.

Prosecutors said Dukes confessed in 2006 to an old Army buddy, John McCullough, that he helped dispose of Grinstead's body but lied to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent who interviewed him about the case a decade later in 2016.

FILE - Tara Grinstead was last seen alive in October 2005. (AP Photo/Elliott Minor, File)

FILE - Tara Grinstead was last seen alive in October 2005. (AP Photo/Elliott Minor, File)

John Fox, Dukes' defense attorney, said during closing arguments that prosecutors had not proved that Dukes intentionally lied to the GBI agent.

"Dukes told the GBI that he did not recall having a conversation with John McCullough," Fox said. "He didn't tell them he did not have a conversation with John McCullough."

He added: "Considering how intoxicated he was, based on McCullough's own testimony, does that seem unreasonable to you?"

After his a few months later, Dukes said Duke had broken into Grinstead's home and strangled her in her bed, then used a pickup truck he'd borrowed from Dukes to move her body to a pecan orchard owned by Dukes' uncle.

Ryan Alexander Duke will stand trial in Tara Grinstead's murder next month. (Georgia Bureau of Investigation via AP)

Ryan Alexander Duke will stand trial in Tara Grinstead's murder next month. (Georgia Bureau of Investigation via AP) (The Associated Press)

Dukes said his friend took him to Grinstead's body and together they moved it deeper into the woods, built a bonfire atop the corpse and burned it for two days.

Wilcox District Attorney Brad Rigby said Duke and Dukes set fire to the remains of a woman who had "a smile that won beauty pageants" and ensured she was "reduced to bits of skull, vertebra and teeth." He added that Dukes had inflicted "more pain" on the missing woman's family when he lied to authorities in 2016.

"He had the opportunity to make the right decision and tell the truth, but he went in a different direction and he abused honor and he abused trust," Rigby said.

Dukes did not testify in his own defense and his legal team did not present any witnesses.

Ryan Duke has been charged with Grinstead's murder and is scheduled to stand trial in nearby Irwin County, Ga. beginning April 1. Dukes is also scheduled to face trial on charges related to the burning of Grinstead's body in a neighboring county.

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GBI agent Jason Shoudel testified at a pretrial court hearing that Duke confessed to killing Grinstead and burning her body. He said DNA from both Duke and Grinstead was found on a latex glove recovered outside her home.

But Duke's defense attorneys say Duke gave a false confession while he was under the influence of drugs. They have said in court documents that Duke was at home asleep the night Grinstead was killed.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.