A jury has convicted a Georgia man of concealing the death of a teacher whose slaying remained a mystery for more than a decade after her body was burned to ash and bone fragments in a rural pecan orchard. Prosecutors in Wilcox County charged 34-year-old Dukes with covering up Tara Grinstead’s death by lying to police in a 2016 interview about the case. But Dukes’s defense attorney said they failed to prove he intentionally lied.
Bo Dukes was the first of two suspects to stand trial in the 2005 death of Tara Grinstead. The fate of the teacher and former beauty queen didn’t come to light until the men were arrested in 2017. “48 Hours” investigated the case in the episode “.”
News outlets report it took the jury less than an hour to convict Dukes on four counts, including two of making a false statement, hindering the apprehension of a criminal and concealing the death of another.
Dukes’s friend, Ryan Duke, is charged with murder in Grinstead’s death. His trial is scheduled for April 1.
Jurors watched a videotaped confession Wednesday of Bo Dukes admitting he helped Ryan Duke burn Grinstead’s body until “it looked like it was all ash.”
In the video, played in court on the third day of trial, Dukes was slouched forward at a table while being questioned by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent. Dukes said his friend Ryan Duke told him the morning after the crime that he had killed a woman and then used Dukes’ pickup truck to move the body.
Dukes said his friend took him to a pecan orchard owned by Dukes’ uncle and showed him Grinstead’s undressed body lying in tall grass. Dukes said he asked exactly what had happened.
“He used a credit card to get into her front door,” Dukes told the investigator. “He jumped on her while she was in bed and strangled her right there.”
Dukes said he helped move Grinstead’s body deeper into the woods, where the two men covered it with wood and set it ablaze. He said they kept the fire burning for two days until even the bones turned to ash.
“I remember asking him, you know, several times, why. He never told me,” Dukes said. “I asked him if he was there to rape her, or kidnap her. He said he was not, did not.”
Grinstead’s disappearance stumped her hometown of Ocilla for more than a decade. Her face loomed large on a billboard in the area seeking tips in her disappearance.
Prosecutors have said Duke confessed to killing Grinstead, saying he broke into her home to steal money for drugs. In a recent court filing, Duke’s defense attorneys said he made a false confession under the influence of drugs and was actually home asleep the night Grinstead was killed.
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