Published February 12, 2019
DNA from a Georgia man charged with killing a former teacher and beauty pageant contestant was found on a glove recovered at the crime scene, a state investigator revealed this week, while a judge denied the suspect’s request for bond.
The revelation made by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Monday comes as Ryan Duke is gearing up for a trial set to begin April 1. He is accused in the 2005 murder of Tara Grinstead, an Irwin County High School history teacher last seen leaving a cookout and heading back to her home. Now, more than a decade later, new details are shedding light on a death that has haunted the area ever since.
Duke -- a former student at Grinstead’s school -- told investigators he broke into her house to steal money for drugs, and when she confronted him he struck her with a fatal blow, GBI agent Jason Shoudel testified on Monday, according to the Associated Press. The agent added that a latex glove with Duke and Grinstead’s DNA was found at her home and that Duke admitted to enlisting a friend to help him burn her body in a pecan orchard.
Shoudel’s comments were made as prosecutors sought to persuade a judge to deny Duke's request for bond.
Not only did Superior Court Judge Bill Reinhardt oblige – but he also denied a defense motion to move the trial out of Irwin County because of pretrial publicity. The county of about 9,500 people is located roughly 180 miles south of Atlanta.
Before his arrest in February 2017, Duke gave a written confession and revealed details of the crime in a videotaped interview with authorities, Shoudel said.
Duke's confession, read in court, said: "Words are useless, but I'm burdened with the murder of Miss Grinstead."
But Duke's attorneys told the judge the confession was false and given while Duke was under the influence of drugs.
"All they've got is an inconsistent statement from someone who was under the influence of drugs," said defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant.
Shoudel said investigators asked Duke several times if anyone else was with him at Grinstead's home when she was killed.
"Each time he indicated he was by himself the entire time, nobody helped him," Shoudel said.
A second man arrested in the case, Bo Dukes, was a friend of Duke. He has been charged with concealing a death, tampering with evidence, and hindering the apprehension of a criminal.
Attorneys for Duke though said it was actually Dukes who killed Grinstead, while the only role Duke played was helping to burn the body.
Last year, however, court documents emerged suggesting both Duke and Dukes admitted to friends at a party – within two weeks of Grinstead’s disappearance – that they had killed her and burned her body.
Documents filed in 2018 in Irwin County Superior Court said their comments were reported to police but they weren't arrested until 2017.
Ryan Duke's brother, Steven Duke, testified Monday that his sibling was afraid of his co-defendant.
"He was scared of what Bo was capable of and he would take the fall or say that he did it to ... make sure that Bo didn't do anything to anybody," Steven Duke told the judge.
Bo Dukes, who had been freed on bond in the Grinstead case, was arrested again in January on charges of rape and false imprisonment. Police in Warner Robins said Dukes threatened two women with a gun and other violence and forced them to his home, where he raped them and held them against their will.
Fox News’ Amy Lieu and the Associated Press contributed to this report.