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Verdict reached in Ryan Duke trial

Duke was facing charges in 2005 death, disappearance of Tara Grinstead
Published: May. 20, 2022 at 9:54 AM EDT
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OCILLA, Ga. (WALB) - A verdict has been reached in the Ryan Duke trial, the man charged with the 2005 death and disappearance of Tara Grinstead.

VERDICT:

  • Malice murder: Not guilty
  • Felony murder: Not guilty
  • Felony murder: Not guilty
  • Burglary: Not guilty
  • Aggravated assault: Not guilty
  • Concealing death of another: Guilty

Ryan Duke was emotional when the verdict was read shortly before noon on Friday.

The jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon after eight days of testimony at the Irwin County Courthouse. The jury resumed deliberations Friday morning.

After the verdict was reached and the court was dismissed, the defense and prosecution gave remarks on the Irwin County Courthouse lawn.

Ryan Duke’s attorneys said their strongest piece of evidence in their case was Ryan himself.

“Ryan told his truth and I think it was evident to the jury and anyone who watched it. Him having the time to tell his story from start to finish, it was very powerful,” said Ashleigh Merchant, one of Ryan Duke’s attorneys.

The defense argued in the eight days of the trial that Bo Dukes, who was also charged in connection to Grinstead’s death, was the one responsible. Bo Dukes was convicted on charges in Wilcox County related to Grinstead’s death in 2019.

“We really think the community can start to heal now. The person who we think did it is in prison,” Merchant said, referencing Bo Dukes. “It gives (Grinstead’s family) some kind of closure. While he may not be paying the price for the crime he committed, he is definitely being punished.”

Prosecutors said it’s been a 17-year nightmare for the Grinstead family.

“We’re disappointed but this is the system, best system the world has. It is what it is, sometimes the system gives a decision we disagree with but that’s what we deal with,” said Bryce Johnson, with the Tifton Judicial Circuit.

Sentencing for the concealing a death charge will be Monday at 9:30 a.m. Grinstead’s family members are expected to give statements at the sentencing.

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