BEN HILL COUNTY, Ga. - The man accused of killing a former beauty queen and teacher in south Georgia in 2005 confessed to investigators in 2017, according to newly leaked documents.
Channel 2's Tony Thomas obtained a summary of the reported confession Ryan Duke gave to Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents last year after it was anonymously leaked online.
Duke is accused of killing Tara Grinstead, who vanished from her home in Ocilla in 2005. Her body has never been recovered. Duke was not arrested until 2017.
Thomas worked for two days to confirm with sources familiar with the investigation that the 11-page summary of the confession, which was written by a GBI agent, is legitimate.
Before Duke appeared in court for the first time last year, GBI agents said he spent nearly four hours confessing.
In the documents, an agent wrote that Duke told investigators he was looking for drug money when he broke into a random house and tried to steal Grinstead's purse and keys. When she caught him in the act, he punched her, which led to her death, Duke reportedly said.
"I was involved with it, man," Duke apparently told investigators. "I was alone that night. I killed her."
In the confession documents, Duke told investigators he had been bothered for years by what he did.
For the first time , we now can read Ryan Duke’s confession according to the GBI file. 11 page document was leaked to internet . How agents say Duke confessed and described details only they and killer would know . @wsbtv 5:30 & 6 pic.twitter.com/GxBsO6NsMH— Tony Thomas (@TonyThomasWSB) December 7, 2018
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In the documents, he is quoted as saying, "I was a coward or I would have told this a long time ago. I am ashamed of my behavior and hiding a lie."
Duke said he called Grinstead's home from a pay phone hours after the attack to see if she would answer. Agents wrote in the report they had known for years about a phone call from that phone.
"The fact that Duke knew about the telephone call was knowledge only known by the GBI and guilty persons," agents wrote.
After he called and she didn't answer, Duke said he went back to the house and removed her body.
He claimed he came back to the home a few hours later, wrapped Grinstead's body in a blanket and placed it in the back of a truck that belonged to his friend, Bo Dukes. He said he then took the body to a pecan orchard and dumped it.
Later, Duke said he and Dukes came back, moved Grinstead's body deeper into the woods and burned it.
"The burning of Grinstead's body took several days, and they returned to the burn pile only once to re-burn the body and throw trash into the burn pile," agents said Duke told them.
"I know I'm going to prison," Duke also apparently said.
At the end of the confession, agents wrote that Duke expressed remorse.
"I'm sorry for the pain I've caused. I took her life. She didn't deserve that," Duke apparently said.
It's unclear who leaked the report on the internet. Two sources connected with the case told Thomas the documents appear to be copies of those in the GBI case file given to prosecutors and the defense team.
Investigators are still searching for Grinstead's remains.
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