Judge modifies gag order in Tara Grinstead murder case - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Judge clears family, witnesses to discuss details of Tara Grinstead case

Source: WGCL Source: WGCL
OCILLA, GA (AP) -

A judge has agreed to modify a gag order barring attorneys, investigators and others from publicly discussing the case of a slain Georgia high school teacher who went missing nearly 12 years ago.

Attorneys for several media organizations, including The Associated Press, had asked Superior Court Judge Melanie B. Cross to lift her gag order in the case of Ryan Duke, who was charged last month with killing teacher Tara Grinstead in 1995.

In a ruling Friday, Cross insisted some restrictions are necessary to protect Duke's right to a fair trial. Her new order prohibits attorneys, law enforcement and court personnel from disclosing case evidence, any statements made by Duke, expected witness testimony and potential pleas.

The order no longer prohibits Grinstead's family and potential witnesses from speaking.

Arrest made after 11-year investigation

Ryan Duke remains in custody, charged with murder, after he was arrested in February 2017, 11 years after Tara Grinstead went missing in Irwin County, Georgia.

Officials confirm that the teacher's remains have not yet been found. For more than a decade, the GBI followed hundreds of leads, but it was a tip that led them to Duke, a former student of Grinstead's.

"This has taken us 11 years and four months to get us to where we are here," said Agent J. T. Ricketson of the GBI. "What I can say is we have identified a person who is responsible for her death and we have him in our custody right now."

On October 22, 2005, Grinstead, a local beauty queen and teacher, disappeared from her home without a trace. Investigators spent countless hours searching land and waterways to find her body, all dead ends. In 2010, a court declared Grinstead dead, but her family was still left without answers.

"We always believed that it would be solved, we just did not know when," said stepmother Connie Grinstead.

Arrest warrants read in court revealed investigators believe Duke killed Grinstead with his hands during a burglary, and then hid her body.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press and WGCL. 

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