Arrest made in 2005 disappearance of Tara Grinstead, search for remains continues

OCILLA, Ga. (WGXA) - More than a decade after the disappearance of an Ocilla school teacher and beauty queen, authorities have new information in her case.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Irwin County Courthouse, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced that they have finally made an arrest in the disappearance of Tara Grinstead.

Thursday, Special Agent J.T. Ricketson with the GBI said that Ryan Alexander Duke, 33, has been charged with Grinstead's murder.

Ricketson said that an individual came forward with information into Grinstead's disappearance just days ago. He said they conducted an interview that led to enough probable to execute an arrest warrant for Duke. Ricketson said he was arrested on Wednesday and will be charged with felony murder.

Ricketson said that Duke attended the high school where Grinstead taught and that he had previously not come up on their radar throughout their investigation. He said that Duke graduated from that high school three years prior to her disappearance.

He said he was not able to release additional information about the case in an effort to protect the integrity of the investigation into her death, though a press release from the GBI send shortly after the press conference stated that the search for Grinstead's remains continues.

Grinstead, a 30-year-old teacher at Ocilla High School, vanished from her home on October 22nd, 2005 after leaving a beauty pageant in Fitzgerald. Authorities were contacted two days later when she did not show up for work.

Grinstead's car was found in the car port of her home and her cell phone was found on the nightstand in her bedroom.

In February of 2015, authorities drained and searched a pond in Ben Hill County after receiving a credible tip about Grinstead's case. They did not find a trace of her remains.

However, authorities did find items on the bottom of the pond. Although they did not say what items were recovered they did indicate that they were related to Grinstead.

In 2016, Atlanta-based documentary filmmaker Payne Lindsey kicked off a podcast about Grinstead's case called "Up and Vanished" in the hopes that it would generate fresh leads in her case.

At Thurday's press conference, Grinstead's step-mother, Connie Grinstead, thanked the GBI for their years of hard work and dedication to the investigation. She thanked God for answered prayers.

"The wounds are deep and our hearts are broken," she said.

Connie Grinstead said she hopes that now that an arrest has been made in the case the community can have closure.

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