Murder trial in Tara Grinstead case set for April

IRWIN COUNTY, Ga. — Irwin County prosecutors agreed to move the murder trial in the Tara Grinstead case, but still needed the judge's approval Monday morning.

Judge Bill Reinhardt said he wanted to hear more evidence before making a final decision.

The motions hearing began Monday morning in Irwin County. There has not yet been discussion on possible venues for the trial.

The GBI arrested Ryan Duke in connection with Tara Grinstead's murder in 2017. The former beauty queen disappeared from Irwin County in October 2005.

The majority of the motions won’t be discussed because prosecutors and defense attorneys agree. But a handful were heard Monday, and Reinhardt said he will begin issuing his rulings the day after the hearing ends.

Duke's lawyers said he cannot get a fair trial in the small town where the death happened. But Cobb County's assistant district attorney said changing locations might not help.

"The world is a lot smaller now. That's one thing you have to consider -- where can you go with the internet and television?” Chuck Boring said.


The judge set a trial date for April 1. But he also has several other key decisions to make, including whether prosecutors can even use the word "murder" at trial.

"It's just like saying guilty, guilty, guilty. I think he's guilty. It's the same prejudice as saying, 'I think a murder happened. I think a murder happened,'" defense lawyer Ashleigh Merchant said.

Merchant insists Duke wouldn't get a fair trial if prosecutors were allowed to repeatedly mention the word murder during his trial.

"To prohibit our use of the term murder, also prohibits us from adequately representing the victim in this case," District Attorney Brad Rigby said.

Lawyers will meet in the next couple of weeks to come up with questions for potential jurors. After those are sent out to what may be a large portion of residents in this county, the judge could decide on where any trial might be held.

Other decisions in the case could come in the next couple of days.

Atlanta man revives interest in case with podcast

In 2016, Channel 2 Action News interviewed a man who started a podcast about the case.

Payne Lindsey’s podcast “Up and Vanished” focuses on Grinstead's disappearance.

"I think the whole case needs a fresh look," Lindsey said.

Lindsey told Channel 2 Action News he has been sharing new leads and information with a private investigator, who worked with Grinstead's family shortly after her disappearance.

"Ever since I released the first episode, every week I've had new calls, new emails from locals," Lindsey said.