Fitzgerald-- The search still continues for an Irwin County school teacher missing since October. Family and friends still haven't given up the hope of finding 31-year-old Tara Grinstead. They'll now do an extensive search of Ben Hill County.
In Ben Hill County, team leaders discuss strategies for a thorough search of the area for missing teacher Tara Grinstead. "It's about a 7 by 6 mile area in here that we're trying to concentrate on," says Ben Hill County Sheriff Bobby McLemore.
It's been over two months since she was last seen at her home in Ocilla. "Naturally we hope we find her alive but also at the same time, we're searching to see if we find a body so we can bring this thing to a close," says Sheriff McLemore. For her parents, the sad but familiar sight of searchers combing through wooded areas for their daughter is a difficult one.
"It's kind of mixed emotions. We want to keep looking for Tara because we want to find her but then we know if we did find her, it would probably not be a good situation," says Tara's stepmother Connie Grinstead.
But like the other searches, this one also has hope and faith. "I hope that we don't find her out here today because I still feel like she's alive somewhere and somebody knows something," says Tara's father Billy Grinstead.
This new search was prompted by an anonymous tip to the Tara command center by email. "To search deep in woods, Fitzgerald, Queensland," says McLemore. Led by the Trackers Global search group, those areas in Ben Hill County will be checked. "We'll be here until the end," says Trackers Global Director Robert Hardiman. They'll be searching for any clues. They'll also use a small boat to search the water.
"We can look 100 feet deep and 250 feet on each side of the boat all the way to the bottom. If anything is in a pond or body of water, we'll find it," says Hardiman. One searcher found a shoe and sunglasses along a roadside but officials determined they didn't belong to Tara.
The family just prays for her safe return and hopes two rewards totaling 200-thousand dollars will help to make that return soon. "The money is sitting in the bank in Ocilla and we're just waiting on a lead to come in. It'll all be anonymous," says Billy Grinstead.
For now, every lead will continue to be followed no matter which state or county. "I've been wanting this area really looked at closely for a while and I'm glad it's being done that way," says Grinstead. The family is using their memory of Tara as their strength to get through as searchers go through miles of land for the teacher who's teaching everyone a lesson of not giving up.
The search will begin again Sunday morning. Anyone interested in volunteering should report to the Ben Hill County Senior Center in Fitzgerald before 8 a.m. Anyone with information about Tara's whereabouts should call the anonymous tip line at 912-386-2564 or call local police.