Georgians pull together for missing teacher -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Georgians pull together for missing teacher

October 31, 2005

Ocilla-- After Tara Grinstead was reported missing, family and friends raised a $10,000 reward for information leading to her return. Now that has more than doubled.

And news of the missing teacher is gaining national and even worldwide attention. Monday, Tara Grinstead's sister spent the day in Atlanta doing interviews. Volunteers say several national cable news channels have picked up on the story and they've even received emails from as far away as Canada.

There have been several law enforcement briefings at the search command center. A new team from Berrien County arrives to find out what areas of Irwin County they'll spend the day searching. "They're looking for anything from clothing to pocketbooks, or letters that might have something on them, or anything that will ID anything connected with this Tara case," says Sheriff Donnie Youghn.

Authorities have been piecing together maps of the entire county to get a better idea of what portion of the 265,000 acres need to be covered. "We've got the Civil Air pPtrol. We've got the aircraft that's going to be flying grid search this afternoon for three hours, and then we've also got the CAP ground team that's supposed to be here," Youghn says.

Volunteers have even had to change fliers to reflect a new reward amount. It's now up to at least $25,000, some of which has been donated by people who've never met the missing teacher. "The word's getting out there and we're not going to rest until we bring Tara home," says search volunteer Linda Fletcher.

Fletcher helps man the search command center. Though she knew Grinstead, she says she also has a personal reason for spending so much of her free time organizing the search. "I've had a brother in law that went missing years ago, and so I know how it feels to have someone in your family to go missing and it's very tragic," Fletcher says.

Still Fletcher, like many others remains optimistic, but warns everyone to be careful and keep their eyes open. "Be aware of everything around you because we don't want anything to happen to anybody else," Fletcher says.

Though hundreds of volunteers have already helped in the search, authorities say they can always use more. They are also urging people outside of Irwin County to search areas around their homes and look for any clues that would lead them to Grinstead.

Volunteer Members of the local Albany Composite Squadron, Civil Air Patrol are performing air searches with their Cessna 172 aircraft, according to a press release from Lt.Col. Lynn McCracken, Group IV Commander, Civil Air Patrol.

Crews will be flying grids of 15 square miles which takes 54 minutes for each grid until the search of the county is completed.

Crew Members flying Civil Air Patrol Cessna 172 990CP from Albany, GA are local Albanians Lt.Col. Roy Young, Capt. James A. Lawton and Lt. Phil Jourdan. Lt. Col. Marl L. McCracken is directing the air search for this mission.

Authorities say people with any piece of information, no matter how small it is, should call either the tips line at 229-468-TIPS or the search command center tip line at 229-268-0667.

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