WILCOX COUNTY, Ga. — One of the two men accused in a Georgia teacher's slaying is in his second day on trial.
Bo Dukes is accused of helping hide the body of Tara Grinstead after authorities said Ryan Duke killed her. Dukes has been charged with making a false statement, one count of hindering the apprehension of a criminal and one count of concealing the death of another.
A jury for Dukes' trial was seated Monday.
In court Tuesday, John McCullough, who went to basic training with Dukes, testified that he heard about what Dukes did with Grinstead's body.
McCullough testified that he reported to police multiple times that Dukes told him he was involved in hiding Grinstead's body. McCullough took the stand for a long time, wiping away tears at times.
He told the court he visited Dukes in 2006 during Christmas and drove the same truck that Dukes allegedly used to transport Grinstead's body.
“He brought it up and said, you remember that billboard you had seen, I was like, ‘Yeah,’ and he was like, ‘I know what happened,’" McCullough said.
"He continued to tell me that he had messed up and he needed his help,” McCullough said.
McCullough testified that Dukes told him his friend Ryan Duke killed the former beauty queen.
“His friend needed Bo's help, is that right?” asked the prosecutor.
“Yes sir,” McCullough responded.
Then McCullough said something even more disturbing.
"He said, 'You know, it takes over 1,200 degrees to burn human body.' Said it a couple times," McCullough said.
McCullough cried when he was shown pictures of Grinstead.
But when Dukes was questioned in 2016 by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, he claimed he couldn’t remember McCullough’s name and didn’t remember a conversation about Grinstead, according to a recording played in court. Dukes denied any involvement with her disappearance in the July 2016 interview, GBI Agent Jason Shoudel testified.
Two of Dukes’ family members also testified, including a cousin and uncle who owned the pecan farm where Grinstead’s body was allegedly burned over several days.
Wes Conner said Dukes had mentioned at a party that he knew what happened to a missing person. But he said Dukes had been highly intoxicated at the time.
“He had the tendency to be a compulsive liar and was very boastful,” Conner said.
Randy Hudson testified Tuesday afternoon that he had warned Dukes, his nephew, that there should not have been any fires on his pecan farm, particularly in the woods where pine trees could quickly ignite.
“I spoke in a way that no one should ever speak to a nephew,” Hudson said. “He was typical Bo. All his life he just didn’t listen. He could’ve done a lot of harm.”
But investigators believe the fire was a way for Dukes and Duke to get rid of any evidence of Grinstead’s death.
A detective who responded to Grinstead’s home after she disappeared explained how he processed evidence, including a glove found at the scene.
The trial will resume Wednesday morning.
During Monday's testimony, Dukes' former girlfriend's mother said that she heard him talk openly about Grinstead's killing.
“Had he helped dispose of Tara’s body? Why didn't he tell people and he said ‘yes.’ Why didn't he tell people? And he said he had told people over the years, but not law enforcement,” Kimalyn Sheridan said.
Sheridan said she would like to forget the day Dukes told her what he did.
“It was so hard for me to fathom the whole thing anyway. It was like living in a surreal bubble,” Sheridan said.
Dukes is also facing kidnapping and sexual assault charges.
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