By Emanuella Grinberg
A judge in south Georgia handed down the maximum sentence of 10 years to Ryan Duke for his role in the disappearance of Tara Grinsted.
A 12-person Irwin County jury on Friday acquitted Duke of five counts, including malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and burglary in Grinstead’s 2005 death. The jury convicted Duke of one count of concealing a death for removing Grinstead’s body from her home and hiding what he did from law enforcement.
The jury’s decision leaves two men claiming responsibility for burning her body and each pointing the finger at one another for her death.
Duke told police in 2017 that he killed Grinstead after she “surprised” him while he was burglarizing her home for drug money. He disavowed his so-called confession on the witness stand, saying his friend, Bo Dukes, killed Grinstead, then roped him into burning her body on Duke’s family’s farm. Ryan Duke said he did not come forward sooner because he feared retribution from Bo Dukes. Bo Dukes told police that Ryan Duke killed Grinstead then came to him for help burning the body. Dukes invoked his right to remain silent when the defense called him to the witness stand.
On Monday, Grinstead’s stepmother and sister questioned why he did not come forward sooner. They pointed out that even the maximum sentence for Duke would be shorter than the amount of time he concealed what he did – “ seven years less than the sentence we’ve experienced due to his revolting and villainous actions,” sister Anita Gaddis said.
“I have lived in a prison of hell for almost 17 years,” Gaddis said in her victim impact statement. “He may be acquitted but does that make him innocent? Absolutely not.”
“We do not want the defendant to leave this courtroom today believing anything he’s ever said or done with regard to Tara has ever been helpful or brought us any kind of peace,” stepmother Connie Grinstead told the judge in her victim impact statement. “His actions imposed a life sentence… every day we have to find way to cope with what he did.”
Ryan Duke’s lawyer Ashleigh Merchant asked for 10 years with time served – five years – and for the remainder to be served on probation. Judge Bill Reinholdt said he believed Ryan Duke was remorseful, but his remorse didn’t negate the pain he cau7sed.
“Despite whatever your selfish feelings were for not coming forward, you had the power to stop that pain for years.”