OCILLA, Ga. — Jurors in the Tara Grinstead murder trial watched intently as prosecutors played a confession from her accused killer.
Channel 2′s Tony Thomas has covered this case from the beginning and was in court Thursday as the confession was played.
Thomas said Ryan Duke sat without outward emotion as the jury watched the video and audio recordings from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation from 2017.
A few feet away, Grinstead’s sister wiped tears from her eyes. It was the first time the family had heard or seen this entire confession.
The video was recorded on Feb. 22, 2017. GBI agent Jason Shoudel sat down with Duke to talk about the Grinstead case.
To Shoudel’s surprise, within 2 minutes Duke confessed to everything.
“I went into the house, I saw her purse and the next thing I knew, she said something and touched me on the shoulder. I think I hit her,” Duke said on the video.
Duke would then go on to explain how he ran away, then tried calling her house the next morning -- a call police had never made public.
“I was hoping she was OK,” Duke said on the video.
“How did you call?” Shouldel asked in the video.
“From a payphone,” Duke answered.
Duke then talked about wrapping the teacher’s body in a quilt.
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He says he took latex gloves along with him. Agents found a similar glove in Grinstead’s front yard with Duke’s and Grinstead’s DNA on it.
Duke said he dumped Grinstead’s body in a nearby pecan orchard, later burning it with the help of friend Bo Dukes.
In the GBI recording, Duke showed agents the area where he said he cremated Grinstead’s body in 2005.
“Everything looks different, OK. It’s been at least 10 years,” Duke said on the video.
But defense attorneys struck back, insisting agents led Duke by suggesting facts of the case.
“So he didn’t introduce that he took her purse and keys. You did?” defense attorneys asked Shouldel on the stand Thursday.
“Correct, he just confirmed it. He said I may have not known,” Shouldel said.
“Unless you’re scared,” defense attorneys said.
This is what this trial comes down to: will the jury believe this confession or side with the defense that it wasn’t true? And what will jurors think about the DNA on the glove? Does it actually link Duke to the crime?
Those answers we may know by as early as next week.
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