Body of Ga. Teacher and Ex-Beauty Queen Was Burned on Pecan Farm, and Witness Says Friend Confessed
An Army veteran broke down in tears on the witness stand Tuesday recalling the night his friend allegedly discussed the 2005 killing of popular Georgia high school history teacher and former beauty queen Tara Grinstead.
On the second day of testimony in the trial of Bo Dukes, who is accused of covering up the killing of Grinstead but not of the killing itself, prosecution witness John McCullough described a 2006 night of drinking and drug use with Dukes that allegedly culminated in his friend’s stunning confession.
Speaking in a Wilcox County courtroom in filmed testimony, McCullough recounted of Dukes, “He seemed like something was bothering him,” and added, “It started to come out. He said, ‘You’re my battle buddy, right?’ He was like, ‘Man, I need to tell you something.'”
What allegedly followed was a detailed description of the beloved Irwin County High School teacher’s death — and the disposal of her remains. Grinstead was last seen leaving a dinner party on Oct. 22, 2005.
Dukes, 34, has pleaded not guilty to single counts of making a false statement, hindering the apprehension of a criminal and concealing the death of another.
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According to prosecutors, another man, Ryan Duke, murdered Grinstead before enlisting Dukes’ help.
The two men are not related; Duke, whose trial starts April 1, has pleaded not guilty to felony murder, malice murder, aggravated assault and burglary charges.
Grinstead was a contestant in three Miss Georgia pageants. After her death, it took 11 years for police to make a break in the cold case.
McCullough testified Tuesday that Dukes allegedly said his friend, Duke, killed Grinstead accidentally.
Dukes said Duke, 35, asked if they could use his Ford truck to dispose of the remains, McCullough alleged. Dukes agreed, and the two men allegedly brought Grinstead’s corpse to a nearby pecan orchard, where they set Grinstead’s body on fire.
“It takes 1,200 degrees to burn human bones,” McCullough recalled Dukes as telling him during the alleged confession.
McCullough testified that he reached out to state investigators about the confession after local authorities allegedly failed to respond to his calls.
On Wednesday, Dukes took the stand in his own defense.
Attempts to reach both defendants’ lawyers for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday.