OCILLA — A former student at the school where Tara Faye Grinstead, who mysteriously disappeared more than 11 years ago, taught has been arrested and charged with her murder, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Thursday.
GBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph Ricketson said at a news conference in Ocilla that Ryan Alexander Duke, 33, has been charged in the case that has received national attention over the years.
While Duke has been charged, GBI officials said they are still searching for Grinstead’s remains. Duke, authorities said, was a student at Irwin County High School when Grinstead was a teacher there.
“This investigation is still very active, and the GBI expects to conduct several more interviews and investigative acts in the next few weeks,” GBI officials said. “The search for Grinstead’s remains continues.”
A former Miss Tifton, Grinstead was last seen around 11 p.m. Oct. 22, 2005, when she left a pageant. Since then, she has been the subject of a nationwide search. At the time of her disappearance, she had shoulder-length brown hair and weighed about 125 pounds, authorities said. She is 5 feet, 3 inches tall. Her 42nd birthday was Nov. 14.
Ocilla police reported at the time that her auto was found in the driveway of her secured home the next Monday morning when co-workers and neighbors reported her missing after she didn’t report for work at Irwin High, where she taught history to ninth- and 10th-graders. Police said the only items that appeared to be missing were her purse and keys.
Vigils were conducted, as were concentrated searches. The GBI was called in to investigate, and the case made national headlines. Leads had developed over the years that didn’t pan out, including at least one in which a hoaxster claimed responsibility for her death, along with about 15 others.
“The GBI has a standing policy that requires all investigative case files, including the unsolved cases, to be reviewed several times each year,” a GBI spokesperson said. “Although the Grinstead investigation was over 11 years old, this case continued to be active. Through the years, the GBI has received many leads that came in through the GBI TIPS line. Each and every creditable tip was fully investigated and exhausted.
“Recently, the GBI received a tip that led agents to conduct several interviews of subjects that had not been previously interviewed. The information gained from these interviews led agents to develop enough probable cause to secure an arrest warrant for Duke, charging him with the murder of Tara Grinstead.”