By BETH HEMPHILL
ATLANTA, Ga (Court TV) — Lawyers for both Bo Dukes and Ryan Duke were back in court fighting to dismiss additional charges in Ben Hill County related to the 2005 death of Tara Grinstead that both defense counsels argue should be dismissed due to the statute of limitations in Georgia.
Both men, who are currently serving prison sentences related to concealing the death of Grinstead by lying to investigators, now face new charges related to the burning of her body in Ben Hill County. No further murder charges are currently being pursued against either of the men, who both blame each other for the actual killing.
Ryan, who was acquitted of murder charges in May 2023, was convicted on a single count of concealing a death, for his self-confessed role in removing Grinstead’s body from her home and hiding what he did from law enforcement. The judge sentenced Duke to 10 years, the maximum sentence.
According to the Ben Hill indictment, Duke now faces six counts, including concealing the death of another, hindering apprehension or punishment of a criminal, two counts of concealment of facts, and two counts of tampering with evidence. Bo is facing four similar counts in a separate indictment obtained by Court TV.
Duke’s lawyers have argued these new charges should be thrown out, since they’ve surpassed Georgia’s statute of limitations of four years from when the crime is committed to the indictment, plus extra time added during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prosecutors, however, claim they did not actually have probable cause to arrest Ryan and Bo, until 2017, when Ryan Duke was arrested and told police that he did kill Grinstead after she “surprised” him during an attempted robbery at her home for drug money. This so-called confession was later argued as being falsely made in fear of Bo’s retribution at Ryan’s 2023 murder trial.
In court Thursday, defense attorneys pointed out that the GBI received their first tip about the two former best friends in November 2005, weeks after the Irwin County teacher’s disappearance.
One of their friends, Garlan Lott, told local police he had overheard Ryan and Bo talking about killing Grinstead and burning her body, while partying at Bo’s family’s pecan orchard.
Lott’s employer, Andrew “Andy” Paulk, was called as a witness during Thursday’s hearing, validating Lott’s story. Paulk said he went with law enforcement to the orchard shortly after Grinstead went missing, but did not find any evidence, reported WALB News.
A ruling is expected from the judge at a later date that has yet to be determined.
The investigation of the 30-year-old’s disappearance spanned more than a decade, consuming the small town of Ocilla in rumors and speculation, before police arrested friends and former Irwin High School students Ryan Duke and Bo Dukes in early 2017.
At his murder trial in 2023, Duke took the stand and disavowed his prior statements to police, saying his former best friend and roommate, Bo Dukes, killed Grinstead, then roped him into burning her body on the Dukes’ family pecan orchard.
Bo, who invoked his right to remain silent at Ryan’s trial, told police that Ryan killed Grinstead, then came to him for help burning the body.
Bo Dukes was convicted in 2019 for lying to the GBI in Wilcox County, hindering the arrest of Ryan Duke and concealing Grinstead’s death. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was never charged for her murder.
During a post-verdict press conference, prosecutors said they did not foresee future murder charges against Bo Dukes in Irwin County, because they believe Ryan Duke is the person responsible for Grinstead’s murder.
Ryan was denied parole in June 2023 and will not be released from custody until his maximum release date, which is February 12, 2027.
Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this reporting.