Grinstead case: New documents reveal possible confession reported in 2005

Updated: Aug. 16, 2018 at 3:05 PM EDT
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Ryan Duke in court on Feb. 23, 2017 (Source: WALB)
Ryan Duke in court on Feb. 23, 2017 (Source: WALB)
Bo Dukes (Source: Jail booking document)
Bo Dukes (Source: Jail booking document)

OCILLA, GA (WALB) - Explosive new facts are coming to light through court documents obtained by WALB related to the October 2005 disappearance of Tara Grinstead.

Both the State and attorneys for Ryan Duke filed multiple new motions and demands this week in the case against Duke for the killing of Grinstead.

Duke's attorney also filed 23 previous motions on Aug. 8.

On Thursday, WALB received the documents from the Irwin County Superior Court through an open records request.

One document filed by the public defender's office for Duke is a plea in bar and demurrer to counts two (felony murder), three (felony murder), four (aggravated assault), five (burglary) and six (concealing death of another) of the indictment based upon the statute of limitations.

Within that document, Duke's attorneys included three exhibits that appear to be part of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's investigative case summary.

The first exhibit is a summary of the GBI's interview with a man named Garland Lott in February of 2017.

According to the document, Lott told the GBI that back in 2005, maybe in November, he had heard both Bo Dukes and Ryan Duke tell the group they were with that they had killed Tara Grinstead and burned her body.

Lott told the GBI investigator that both Dukes and Duke were intoxicated at the time.

Lott said soon after that event, he met with Andy and Jannis Paulk, his employer, and several law enforcement officers to search an orchard.

Lott said he had never been interviewed by law enforcement prior to the interview in February of 2017 with the GBI.

The second exhibit is a summary of the GBI's interview with Jannis Paulk in February 2017.

Paulk told the GBI that approximately two to four weeks after Grinstead was reported missing, Paulk's employee, Garland Lott, told Paulk about the statement he said both Bo Dukes and Ryan Duke had made regarding Grinstead's death.

In her interview with the GBI in 2017, Paulk said she and Lott met with Irwin County Chief Deputy Nelson Paulk and Investigator Alan Morgan near an orchard off Bowen's Mill Highway, north of Fitzgerald, still in the approximate time period of two to four weeks after Grinstead's disappearance.

Paulk told the GBI that after a brief search of an older fire pit located in the orchard, everyone left the orchard.

Paulk also said she talked with Morgan two to four weeks after the search, and Morgan told Paulk that both Bo Dukes and Ryan Duke had been spoken to, and they denied killing Grinstead. Morgan told Paulk the two suspects said they had been drunk when they were talking.

Paulk said she gave the information she heard from Lott to former GBI Agent Leah Lightner in 2008, according to documents.

Paulk also said no one followed up with her about the information until the February 2017 interview with the GBI.

The third exhibit is a summary of an interview between the GBI and Nelson Paulk that happened in February of 2017.

According to the GBI's summary, Nelson reported making contact with both Garland Lott and Jannis and Andy Paulk.

Nelson said Lott told him about what he said he heard Bo Dukes and Ryan Duke say at the party a few weeks after Grinstead's disappearance, according to documents.

The group showed Nelson an old burn pit in the pecan orchard north of Fitzgerald but did not locate any evidentiary items.

Nelson said he was unfamiliar with any documentation of the search.

READ MORE on the Grinstead case.

Nelson said he never completed or received any written statements, but he said he believed Investigator Morgan may have completed some documentation. However, Morgan no longer works with the Irwin County Sheriff's Office, according to documents.

WALB talked with Special Agent in Charge J. T. Ricketson over the GBI's Region 13 investigative office, who said he could not comment on the case as the GBI has turned over its case files to the District Attorney's office.

WALB also has reached out to the Irwin County Sheriff's Office for comment on the new details.

The document in which these exhibits were submitted was a motion asking the court to dismiss several charges against Duke, not including the charge of malice murder, because of the statute of limitations.

That document, filed by Duke's attorneys, was submitted to the court on Wednesday, August 15, 2018, along with several other motions including a motion to suppress Duke's statements and for a pretrial Jackson v. Denno hearing, to determine the voluntariness of any statements and to determine the validity of any waiver of counsel prior to the interrogation.

On Aug. 10, District Attorney Paul Bowden filed a Notice of Jackson-Denno hearing, to be held at 9:30 a.m. on September 20.

On Wednesday Duke's attorneys filed one other document, a special demurrer, asking the court to dismiss the indictment in Duke's case.

That document states the counts on Duke's indictment are too "vague, ambiguous, and indefinite, thereby depriving Defendant of his constitutional rights guaranteed to him under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments."

Bowden filed multiple documents with the court on Wednesday, including a state's demand for the defendant to provide written notice of his intention to offer a defense of alibi, a motion for individual, sequestered voir dire (or jury selection), motion for an order requiring the defendant to identify, in writing, all motions which would require an evidentiary hearing, reciprocal discovery notice, and notice of service of list of witnesses.

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