Hometown Homicide: Local Mysteries travels to Oscilla, Georgia, to investigate the disappearance and murder of high school teacher Tara Grinstead in a case that’s been described as one of the biggest mysteries in south Georgia.
In October 2005, Grinstead failed to show up to work on Monday morning at the local high school, where she was a teacher. She was last seen alive on Saturday when she helped out at a pageant and attended a barbecue.
A search of Grinstead’s home further deepened the mystery; her car was still parked outside, and her beloved pet dog, Dolly, was still at home. There were also no signs of forced entry or a struggle.
Investigators and townsfolk concluded that somebody must have murdered Grinstead and that she must have known her attacker.
Suspicions initially fell onto her ex-boyfriend, police officer Marcus Harper. The lack of physical evidence made many believe that Grinstead’s killer was someone who knew police procedure and also knew how to hide evidence.
Small town rumors often become rife, and many claimed that they’d seen Harper and Grinstead arguing just days before her disappearance. However, it later transpired that he had a rock-solid alibi, which left investigators back at square one.
After eight years Ryan Duke and Bo Dukes are implicated
Then in 2017, there was a shocking breakthrough when a woman contacted the police to say her boyfriend Bo Dukes had confided in her that his friend Ryan Duke had murdered Grinstead.
Dukes told the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) that his friend had confessed to the murder and then showed him the dead body which he had left in a Peccan orchard.
When GBI agents subsequently questioned Ryan Duke, he confessed to the murder. He claimed he broke into Grinstead’s home to steal money, but when she surprised him, he “accidentally” killed her.
Investigators believe he may have climbed into bed with Grinstead as she slept and then strangled her to death.
Duke then confessed to enlisting the help of his friend, Bo Dukes, to move and burn the body. They allegedly tended the fire for hours until they were sure none of Grinstead’s remains were left behind.
In 2019, Bo Dukes was sentenced to 25 years for helping to cover up the murder. Ryan Duke remains in custody and is still awaiting trial.
More from Hometown Homicides
Follow the links to read about more murders spotlighted on Hometown Homicides.
Jay Thomas Johnson spread fear through the gay community in Minneapolis in the summer of 1991 when he began attacking people in a violent homophobic rampage. Former state Senator John Chenoweth, 48, and 21-year-old Joel Larson lost their lives before Johnson was finally brought to justice.
In 2013, 17-year-old Alexis Murphy went missing a short distance from her home in Virginia. Despite no remains being recovered, Randy Taylor was sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder.
Hometown Homicide: Local Mysteries airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.