Man accused of murdering former beauty queen talks about alleged 'confession'

Channel 2's Tony Thomas worked for weeks to get phone calls between Duke and a friend that the friend recorded. In the new recordings, Duke talks about his confession.

IRWIN COUNTY, Ga. — For the first time, Channel 2 Action News is hearing from the man accused of murdering a former beauty queen and school teacher more than a decade ago through recorded conversations from his jail cell.

Ryan Duke is accused of killing Tara Grinstead in Ocilla in 2005.

Channel 2's Tony Thomas worked for weeks to get phone calls between Duke and a friend that the friend recorded. In the new recordings, Duke talks about his confession.

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Earlier this month, someone leaked a summary of a confession Duke reportedly gave to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation back in 2017.

Thomas was able to confirm with sources close to the investigation that the summary is legitimate. But in the new recordings, Duke denies killing Grinstead.

"I never put my hands on a woman in my entire life man. I never will," Duke said. "I'm not going to sit here and say I did something I didn't do."


In the recordings, Duke tells his friend he was on drugs the day he confessed. He and his legal team are now saying he was so high on drugs when he was questioned, that he confessed to things other people had told him.

"I was high as a f**ing kite when the GBI first interviewed me," Duke said. "I took a couple of pain pills. I would have told them I shot JFK if that's what they wanted to ask me about."

Grinstead vanished from her home in south Georgia in the fall of 2005. Hundreds of people in the small town of Ocilla searched for her body for days, but it has never been found.

Thirteen years after she disappeared, Duke and a high school buddy, Bo Dukes, were charged in connection with the incident. Duke was charged with murder while Dukes was charged for allegedly helping Duke dump and then burn Grinstead's body in a pecan field.

In the recordings, Duke told his friend that Dukes was the one who murdered Grinstead.

"He had something with that orchard all the way back when he was a teenager," Duke said. "He said he (killed Grinstead). I didn't believe him. Who would?"

Duke's attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, said Duke admits he was involved with the coverup of the crime, but not in Grinstead's death.

"His statement will be that he was involved somewhat, but that he was not involved in any of the crimes he was charged with," Merchant said.

Merchant has filed several new motions this week, including asking the state to pay for a defense expert to talk about false confessions. Duke's defense team is also asking the judge for out-of-state subpoena powers so it can do its own investigation into who might have leaked the GBI documents.

Duke could go to trial as early as next spring.

"I'm the closest they are going to get to ever putting somebody in jail," Duke said in the recording.