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Jury finds Ryan Duke not guilty of murdering Tara Grinstead

A jury has found Ryan Duke not guilty of murdering Tara Grinstead.

Grinstead, a beloved teacher and former beauty queen, disappeared in 2005 from her Irwin County home.

The case went cold until the Georgia Bureau of Investigation zeroed in on Ryan Duke and his friend Bo Dukes in 2017.

During the trial, Duke took the stand to proclaim his innocence and insisted that what he told investigators in 2017 actually referred to the actions of Dukes.

Bo Dukes was found guilty of lying to authorities in the case in March 2019. During his trial, Dukes said Ryan Duke killed Grinstead, and that he then helped Duke move and burn her body in a pecan orchard. Dukes is currently serving a sentence of 25 years in prison.

During Ryan Duke’s trial, his defense attorneys painted a picture of overzealous prosecution that was light on evidence.

They insisted a glove with Duke’s DNA that was found outside Grinstead’s house, didn’t prove Duke killed her. They also insisted that Duke’s 2017 confession was a lie.

On Friday morning, the jury came back with not guilty verdicts on all counts in the case but one. Duke was found guilty of concealing a death.

Duke had faced six different counts and an automatic sentence of life in prison if found guilty.

Tony Thomas, a reporter for WSB-TV in Atlanta, covered this case from the very beginning and was inside the courtroom for the entire trial.

Thomas said Duke’s defense team came out swinging Thursday morning in closing arguments, insisting that not only was Duke not a murderer, but the blame lay directly at his former friend, Bo Dukes.

“Bo Dukes should be sitting in that chair, not Ryan. Bo Dukes should be on trial, not Ryan,” defense attorney John Merchant said.

>> Earlier this year, Tony Thomas also spoke with Cox Media Group’s Nicole Bennett in an episode of her true crime podcast ‘Beyond Criminal Headlines’ about Grinstead’s case. Listen to the full interview here.

Prosecutor Brad Rigby fired back, insisting all the evidence pointed to one man — Ryan Duke.

“He is the killer of Tara Grinstead, the monster that he wants to hide,” Rigby said.

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Philip Holloway, a former prosecutor and police officer, is now a legal analyst for 95.5 WSB in Atlanta. Holloway was also in the courtroom during Ryan Duke’s testimony this week. Originally from south Georgia, Holloway has a wide range of experience in legal matters and law enforcement matters, both as a practicing attorney and as a media analyst. Holloway has appeared on several national media outlets, including the ‘Up and Vanished’ podcast series, whose first season focused on the Tara Grinstead case.

In the weeks leading up to Duke’s trial, Holloway also spoke with CMG’s Nicole Bennett to preview the case. Holloway predicted that the prosecution would have an “uphill battle,” considering multiple factors in their case, including: potentially insufficient evidence, conflicting accounts of what may have happened to Grinstead and a witness—Bo Dukes—who Holloway says lacks credibility.

In his trial preview, Holloway provided incredible insight into Ryan Duke’s case.

Listen to his full interview below from Bennett’s podcast series ‘Beyond Criminal Headlines’:

Nicole Bennett

Nicole Bennett

CMG Digital Content Producer

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