Trial in homicide of instructor Tara Grinstead could hinge on confession and glove: “We have had his DNA since 2005, we simply did not know”

A Georgia man charged with murdering a preferred highschool instructor who vanished in 2005 went on trial Monday with prosecutors and protection attorneys clashing over whether or not the jury ought to consider the defendant’s confession to investigators.

Ryan Duke’s trial opened greater than 16 years after Tara Grinstead was final seen leaving a night cookout in rural south Georgia. Her disappearance lingered as an unsolved thriller in Irwin County for greater than a decade till Duke advised Georgia Bureau of Investigation brokers in 2017 that he killed Grinstead after breaking into her house to steal cash for medicine.

“He confesses along with his phrases. He confesses along with his writings,” prosecutor J.D. Hart advised the jury Monday in his opening assertion. “He confesses along with his actions by strolling them on the market and displaying them the place he burned the physique.”

Hart additionally advised the jury that proof will present Duke was the “main contributor” of DNA left on a latex glove in Grinstead’s entrance yard.

“We have had his DNA since 2005,” Hart mentioned. “We simply did not know.”

Tara Grinstead
Tara Grinstead

Ashleigh Service provider, certainly one of Duke’s protection attorneys, advised jurors her shopper was coerced into confessing whereas beneath the affect of medicine and his statements to investigators cannot be trusted.

She additionally mentioned the jury will hear proof that investigators “tried very onerous” to seek out DNA on the glove matching a second man already convicted of serving to get rid of Grinstead’s physique, however check outcomes have been inconclusive.

“Ryan didn’t hurt Ms. Grinstead,” Service provider mentioned, “and on the finish of this trial you’ll agree with us.”

Grinstead, who taught historical past and was a former magnificence queen, was simply 30 when she went lacking. Earlier than Duke’s confession. her household held out hope that she may return house secure.

Her physique was by no means recovered. Duke advised investigators he and an confederate took Grinstead’s physique to a pecan orchard in a neighboring county and burned it to ash.

Superior Court docket Choose Invoice Reinhardt seated 12 jurors and 6 alternates final week after simply 4 days of jury choice.

It occurred shortly contemplating the pervasive publicity that has surrounded the case ever since Grinstead’s disappearance. The courtroom clerk mailed out 800 jury obligation notices for the trial to make sure a greater probability of discovering sufficient neutral jurors.

If convicted of homicide, Duke faces an computerized sentence of life in jail. A courtroom battle over funding for his authorized protection and the coronavirus pandemic contributed to lengthy delays within the case going to trial.

A second particular person with an analogous identify, Bo Dukes, was convicted in 2019 for serving to transfer and burn Grinstead’s physique. He was sentenced to 25 years in jail.

Final yr, “48 Hours” correspondent Peter Van Sant, who coated the case for over a decade, visited the small city of Ocilla, Georgia, which has been consumed with suspicion and theories in regards to the disappearance of Grinstead.

Many individuals, together with Maria Woods Harber, have questions on Bo Dukes’ model of occasions: that Ryan alone killed Tara and Bo had solely helped burn her physique.

“I consider [they] have been each on this collectively. I’ve needed to come to a conclusion that I am simply gonna must stay the remainder of my life not figuring out,” she mentioned.

“What occurred on this orchard was mindless…” mentioned Woods Harber. “Two males who had no regard for a lovely, loving particular person took her life.”

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