Judge weighing what evidence can be entered in trial against one of Tara Grinstead’s alleged killers

IRWIN COUNTY, Ga. — A judge this week is expected to make some key decisions in one of Georgia’s most publicized murder cases: the disappearance of Tara Grinstead.

Ryan Duke’s murder trial is set for May, but before then the judge must decide what evidence can be included.

As lawyers work through that, Grinstead’s family waits -- just like they’ve been forced to do for nearly 17 years.

“He told me he had gone to her house, used a credit card to get through the front door and strangled her,” suspect Bo Dukes said in an interview with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Dukes pinned the long unsolved disappearance of Grinstead on his onetime friend, Ryan Duke.

“This is really a case of who do you believe,” said Ashleigh Merchant, attorney for Ryan Duke.

Merchant said Bo Dukes’ story was created solely because Bo expected a deal from prosecutors if he talked.

Dukes has since been convicted of helping burn and conceal Grinstead’s body.

“He is a witness against my client. We are the reason he is here,” Merchant said.


Prosecutors insist there was no deal offered.

“Did any deal exist with Bo Dukes?” Channel 2′s Tony Thomas asked attorney Paul Bowden.

“No,” Bowden said.

Ryan Duke later confessed to the murder but now says it’s not true and that Bo Dukes was the actual killer.

Grinstead disappeared in 2005. She was a much-loved teacher in the rural South Georgia county.

Despite massive searches across South Georgia, the case went unsolved until 2017 when Bo Dukes spoke to the GBI.

“He would hope by testifying he would be currying favor,” Merchant said.

The hearing is expected to continue Wednesday when defense attorneys plan to call Bo Dukes to the stand again.

His public defender will be by his side. It is unclear if he will answer any questions.

Jury selection is set to begin May 2 in Ryan Duke’s murder trial.