Original Air Date 01.31.2017
In This Episode
Payne and Maurice think they’ve figured out how “George Harrison” (now identified as Jose) knew about the UAV podcast before it started. They later learn that the GBI interrogated and possibly harassed him after being tipped off by Maurice. Payne discusses how quickly news of Tara’s disappearance spread, to a local newspaper editor and even to cable TV host Nancy Grace, both of whom appear on the podcast. Former school superintendent Troy Davis describes Tara’s behavior at the BBQ and several phone calls she received that fateful evening.
People in this Episode
Friend who hosted the BBQ on the night of Tara's disappearance
Ex-Boyfriend and Former Police Officer
Dr. Maurice Godwin
Private Forensic Detective
Evidence in this Episode
Tara's Purse and Keys
Tara's Cell Phone
Presenter: Okay, que the clap now.
Intro: Ten years ago today marked the last time anybody reported seeing or talking to Tara Grinstead.
Officially, police are calling this a missing persons case.[crosstalk 00:02:34]
TBI officials say that investigators [crosstalk 00:02:35]
An 80,000 dollar reward is being offered.[crosstalk 00:02:39]
Where is Tara Gr instead?
Payne Lindsey : From Tenderfoot TV in Atlanta, this is Up and Vanished: The Investigation of Tara Grinstead. I'm your host, Payne Lindsey.
Since the last episode, some people have asked me if this George Harrison thing was real. Some suggesting that maybe I made it up, but I can assure you that's not the case and I can totally see where you're coming from. Cause when all this stuff was happening, I was literally thinking the same thing. Nobody's even going to believe me! This whole George Harrison thing was a real eye opener in the beginning ... what I was getting myself into. This idea that someone associated with the case knew me but I didn't know them was a creepy feeling, and for awhile it's all I was thinking about in this case.
Payne Lindsey : I've found a way that you can search for the IP address the next time you are chatting with them.
Maurice: Yeah, I saw that but I've got to keep him on there is the only thing. Maybe if I don't type, I just paste it in there, he won't see that typing and I can get something sent to him. See, he doesn't stay on long enough.
Payne Lindsey : I even called my mom to get her thoughts on it.
"And he keeps deactivating his Facebook, like completely. Not just blocking people, like deactivating it."
Payne's mom: And that's what you told me about it and after that night we talked, that's the way I was feeling. To me it must make more sense for maybe somebody who knows something or something, or definitely someone who's paranoid.
Payne Lindsey : The thing is that I've only talked to so many people, so I could narrow it back to like ... there's only so many people I've talked to. It seems like someone who is trying to find out information.
Payne's mom: Yeah, exactly.
Payne Lindsey : Somebody whose been watching.
Payne's mom: Lock your doors when you leave, you know? Keep searching.
Payne Lindsey : Yeah, I know.
Payne's mom: There's crazy people out there.
Payne Lindsey : Not only was the situation crazy, but with no podcast out at all and the fact that I was spending all my time dealing with this and talking about it, was making me sound crazy. Here's a conversation with my wife and my little brother, right after it all started.
Payne Lindsey : That person is still messaging people. Still messaging the investigator, talking about Payne says all this ...
Mason Lindsey: He's still deleting his account?
Payne Lindsey : Yes, he keeps deactivating his account which makes it disappear and when he does that it makes his comments disappear whenever he posted them. Then he reactivates it I guess to check his messages, to see, if Godwin or somebody else...
I'm not saying this person is the killer. I don't know, give me one other good reason why someone would do this.
Payne Lindsey : I was freaking out and I probably sounded a little nuts, but remember, this was all before the podcast was even a thing. My younger brother did not take it as seriously.
Mason Lindsey: He's going to solve it and that's my brother.
Payne Lindsey : I'm being serious. Whatever, Mason.
So my little brother thought I was silly, but I was still hellbent on finding out who this guy was. One of the biggest mysteries that I couldn't explain, one of the things that makes this story sound so unbelievable, was the fact that George Harrison knew the name Up and Vanished before I even announced it. After putting some more thought into it, it technically wasn't impossible for someone to find that name, but only if they were really looking for it. And I mean, really looking for it.
See, right before it all started, I shot a trailer for Up and Vanished to use a promo for the podcast. My friend Christian helped me shoot it. We had an actress named Michelle playing the role of Tara. When I was shooting it that morning, I took a picture of the film camera and posted it on Instagram. I didn't put any captions on it, but if you looked closely at the film camera there was a small strip on the film magazine that said, "Up and Vanished". I sent some still shots of the shoot to the actress and she asked if she could post them on Facebook, so I said sure. But when she did, she tagged my name, Tara Grinstead's name, and the name "Up and Vanished" in the post. So if somebody typed in the name Tara Grinstead on Facebook and clicked search, this would pop up in the most recent post and you'd learn not only my name but also the name "Up and Vanished".
But here's the thing, I realized this very quickly, within about twenty minutes actually, and I had her take it down. But technically, if George Harrison searched for Tara Grinstead on Facebook during that time period he would've found that post, but only during that twenty minutes.
Now that you're filled in on the backstory a little bit, let's pick up where we left off in the last episode.
Private Investigator 2: Okay, what's this guys name? Let's run it. You got his information?
Payne Lindsey : Yup.
Private Investigator 2: Well, I'm glad he gave his license.
Here's our guy.
Payne Lindsey : Who the hell is that? Jose *bleep*. For legal and safety reasons, I've chosen to censor his last name. He's a real person and it's a very complicated situation.
Who is this guy? Did we ever verify if he was really Tara's student?
Private Investigator 2: No. He claimed that he knew her. He was either in the seventh or eighth grade, he'd just came here.
Private Investigator : She helped him with...
Private Investigator 2: English.
Private Investigator 2 : English.
Private Investigator 2: It seemed genuine.
Payne Lindsey : What was his demeanor when he was interviewed
Private Investigator 2: It seemed like he was being truthful then, but what wasn't truthful was he fell off the face of the Earth. I tried calling his number, it didn't work. I didn't even get him until I called his mother and I said, "What's going on?"
Payne Lindsey : What was his motive in coming here in the first place?
Private Investigator 2: He wanted to hire us to investigate the case. He'd already done a lot of investigation himself and got into trouble.
Payne Lindsey : Doing what?
Private Investigator 2: Interviewing people, talking to people, I mean ... I didn't get a feeling then that he was interjecting himself. It seems very suspicious. I always look at the motive, if he was genuine and he cared, he's going to be jumping all over it. Me calling, and what are we doing, did you find anything, that's what somebody I'd guess genuinely cares.
Payne Lindsey : But now he is radio silent?
Private Investigator 2: Mm-hmm. Been radio silent for awhile. A long while. He disconnected his phone.
Private Investigator: There are other PI's down there, but he wanted to get far away from Missoula because of who he thought, the person that did it.
Private Investigator 2: Well that and he'd been calling people and going to see people and acting almost like a PI himself. I told him he had to stop that, you can't keep doing that.
Payne Lindsey : So now I had George Harrison's real name, Jose. Well, at least I thought so. So far I was basing this determination mainly off of my gut feeling. That his typing matched up perfectly and his online behavior, from what I could tell, resembled that of this Jose guy in real life. But I needed something more concrete than that, undeniable truth that this guy was George Harrison.
A few weeks went by and George Harrison's account remained inactive. He was no longer online. He pretty much fell off the face of the earth. When his Facebook was deactivated and he looked at his messages, his profile would be blank and say something like, "Facebook user". But one day all of sudden, Maurice was looking at the messages and the profile picture was back and so was the name. Except for this time the profile picture was of a woman and the name was no longer George Harrison. It was Julie. Basically, George Harrison reactivated the Facebook profile then changed his name and his picture on the account to a person named Julie.
But here's where things got interesting. His new Facebook profile was based off of a real person. A lady who in real life was friend's with Tara's sister. When you search Julie's name on Facebook both accounts would pop up. So Maurice took it upon himself to message the real Julie, informing her of the fake Facebook profile. He told her the whole story about George Harrison then he asked her, "Have you ever met a person named Jose *censor*?" The real Julie responded and said, "Yes, I met him once. He came to the town I lived in. I thought he had done something to my account."
What? This person said she met Jose one time. How in the world did that happen? Either way it didn't matter because now Maurice and I had proof that without a doubt Jose was 100% George Harrison.
Maurice: There's no doubt about it that he was Harrison, because her profile picture was a different profile picture than the one he was using, but it was still her. I sent her a message, I sent you the chat. There's no doubt about it that it was him.
Payne Lindsey : Yup, it was him. Remember that copy of his driver's license? I sent it to Maurice.
Maurice: I reported it. When you gave me that driver's license and they went to his house. I mean, he never let me know what happened, I don't know anything about that. I guess they just did it to eliminate him, but I'm sure they questioned it.
I had told all of them, the guy head of Tara's thing, about a number of different times. But see I didn't have anything to go on and when I got that driver's license I had something to go on.
Payne Lindsey : After that, things slowed down with George Harrison. His counts went away again. At this point the podcast was out and I shifted my focus on other people. Maurice sent his info to the GBI so if they felt the need to investigate him, they could. At the time I felt like I had bigger fish to fry so I just sort of moved on. But throughout the course of my investigation it was always in the back of my head. Who was this Jose guy? What was his motive? Was he just a troll playing a joke on me or did he have credible information?
Since the last episode, I went back to those same private investigators I met with six months ago to see if we could make contact with him and put this thing to rest once and for all. All this happened just a few days ago.
Since I was here last, I spoke with Maurice the PI in North Carolina again because he was the one receiving the messages from George Harrison, the fake Facebook account. You know they were about me but they were to him. So I share with him the details of Jose, who came in here, he was pretty stressed out about it at the time and felt that he had to get this off of his shoulders. If this had to do something with the case, he had to do something about it and get it off his shoulders. He on his own account sent this ID right here to the GBI.
Private Investigator 2: Do we have a new number on him? Let's just call him and see what he's doing. I think we should call him. Does he know your number?
Private Investigator: Yeah.
Private Investigator 2: He knows your number?
Private Investigator: Yeah, cause I've been trying to text him. Remember we tried to text him back and forth. He somewhat trusted us.
Private Investigator 2: You want me to use my phone? If he answers, what do we want to ask? Just, "Hey what are you doing?"
Payne Lindsey : Why have you been doing this?
Private Investigator 2: Why are you doing this?
Private Investigator: Why are you poking around?
Private Investigator 2: Why are you obstructing? He's absolutely obstructing.
Automated voice: The number you have dialed has been changed, disconnected, or is no longer in service.
Payne Lindsey : No surprise.
Of course his number didn't work. So we searched some more and found one more number on him. Maybe this was it.
Unknown woman: Hello?
Private Investigator 2: Hey.
Unknown woman: Hey.
Private Investigator 2: I'm trying to reach Jose.
Unknown woman: Pardon?
Private Investigator 2: I'm trying to reach Jose.
Unknown woman: You must have the wrong number.
Private Investigator 2: Okay, how long have you had this number?
Unknown woman: Probably for about three years.
Private Investigator 2: Three years, okay. Alright, I apologize.
Unknown woman: That's fine.
Private Investigator 2: Thank you.
Payne Lindsey : Again, no surprise, but right before we left, this happened.
Private Investigator 2: Okay, I got Jose's mom on the phone.
Payne Lindsey : Jose's mom?
Private Investigator 2: Hey, how are you? Hello? Hey, we're trying to find Jose?
Jose's mom: Bueno? Habla Espanol?
Private Investigator 2: Uh, bueno.
Jose's mom: Habla Espanol?
Private Investigator 2: A little bit, but we're looking for Jose.
Payne Lindsey : You've got to be kidding me.
Jose's mom: Oh, no, no, no, no Jose here.
Private Investigator 2: Yes, he knows me. Would you have him call me?
Jose's mom: I don't know. Do you have the wrong phone number? Yeah? Wrong phone number?
Private Investigator 2: Do you have his number?
Payne Lindsey : Oh my goodness...
Private Investigator 2: Well, that's his mama.
Payne Lindsey : So he was still a ghost, but I was over it. Then two hours later after I left the office, the PI called me back.
Private Investigator 2: I just heard from Jose. Okay, not only was he interrogated by them, the GBI, he was Swabbed, they harassed him, they said off some things to him, and this was six months ago. So my concern is, you have to be really careful when you're being accusatory on this podcast.
Payne Lindsey : I never accused him of anything. All I did was read the messages.
Private Investigator 2: I understand. I agree with that. You were right about that, you were right. He put his own self on the radar, I agree. He's probably, Jose's probably lying about a lot too. I'm like, "Jose you've been missing. What's the problem?" "Uh, Uh, I didn't do it. It was the GBI." "What do you mean you've been dealing with the GBI?!" "GBI came out and interrogated me, and this, this, this ..." I said, "What's going on?" And he said, "I don't know."
I don't mind going to Jose and say, "Jose, what is up? Okay, what are you doing? What is the connection you have? Everybody thinks you've got something to do with this. Tell me everything, every step." He'll tell me. He's my client. You have to be really, really, careful about what you put on this podcast. I would rather him tell me everything if he could or tell him to come to my office so you can interview him. I just, I want to calm him down. I want to beg him to come to my office and I want to see what's going on with him. I want to ask him every single question that you want to ask him and then I want to tell him it's about to for you to meet Payne!
Payne Lindsey : The complicated thing about this was that Jose came to them first, about a year ago. So in their eyes, he is still their client. I feel like I had done my part. Unless he had something else to say there was no need for me to meet him.
She called me back the next day.
Private Investigator 2: I mean Jose, I just, they just showed up at his work. GBI showed up at his work about six months ago. I guess interrogated and swabbed him. He did admit to the fake profiles just like you said everybody else put fake profiles together.
Payne Lindsey : So there it was, final confirmation. Jose admitted that it was him.
Payne Lindsey : I wanted to make that I found the right person before I even said, you know, his first name. So I was in fact being truthful. I had a gut feeling but I wanted to see it all the way through. That's why I met with you guys again to make contact and affirm that was the case. I was just trying to get to the bottom of who was sending those messages and it looks like I have. I have no evidence that says he was actually a student of hers, I just think he is somebody who has become obsessed with this case for whatever reason. Maybe not in a malicious way, but in a way that is not helpful. He's probably not a suspect here. He's just some guy who got himself in a mess that happened to involve me.
After doing some serious digging with Maurice, we found nothing supporting that Jose was a student of Tara's. He would've been fifteen at the time of Tara's disappearance. Tara taught eleventh grade history so he wasn't old enough to be in her class if he in fact went to school there which we also have no evidence of. The GBI has his DNA and he's not in jail. That has to say something. It was still weird to me that after all that I had no desire to meet him.
Not too long ago I got a call from a man named Robert Preston. He ran a local newspaper near Ocilla at the time of Tara's disappearance. He wanted to share with me some of the things he learned as it all unfolded back then.
Robert Preston: I was the editor of the segments daily news at the time. We hadn't been in business very long, maybe six or seven months or so. It was a neat experiment for our community. We never had a daily paper and we were five days a week. We obviously had to find a lot of news in a hurry to put out five newspapers a week and I remember when we heard that Tara had disappeared. None of us knew Tara, had never heard of Tara before even though we are only twenty five miles away, we weren't familiar with her at all. We began getting phone calls at our office that morning that this young, attractive teacher in Ocilla hadn't shown up for work. People feared the worst.
Normally, in all honestly, we probably wouldn't have pursued the story as quickly as we did if we had been a once or twice weekly newspaper. We probably would've sat back to see what developed but again, because it was a Monday morning and we needed news for the week, we jumped on it pretty quickly. It didn't take us long, just a matter of hours, to see that there was a lot of interest in the case, that a lot of people in Coffee county did know her. Especially people in the pageant scene were familiar with her. We stayed with the story for as long as we could.
I got involved when some of the television stations, the national media really started paying attention. When Nancy Grace picked up on the story that was when we really took on a more active role in the case. The Nancy Grace show called our office one day, one of the producers did, and this was several months after Tara had disappeared and they asked to speak to someone on the air about the case. What I actually did was I looked at my reporters, I said, "Look, Nancy Grace wants somebody from Douglas Daily news on the air. Somebody from our papers going. Who wants it? Neither one of them wanted to do it. I said, "Alright, I'm giving you guys one more opportunity because if you don't do it, I am. We aren't going to pass up this opportunity." So, I said, "Okay, I'm going to tell them I'll do it and now you guys have to brief me on the story." Because again, I knew what I had read in the paper. I made a few phone calls and we found out the details of the Nancy Grace appearance was actually on the show with Tara's sister in front of Tara's house.
The one thing that we couldn't figure out, the same thing people still can't figure out today, and what you're trying to get to the bottom of, is how does something like this happen? How does a person completely vanish ... I know your podcast is "Up and Vanished" and that's exactly what happened. Tara was here and then Tara was gone. There aren't a lot of clues in between. Not anything that has really pieced together what exactly happened, there are gaps in her movement that day. Those gaps obviously are where the clues are but we've never been able to fill in those gaps. Of all the cases the GBI has investigated in Georgia, the Grinstead case is the thickest file that they have. There's more information, more notes, more papers in that file than any other file they have. Either nobody saw anything or people are too scared to talk. But, I mean, obviously somebody knows. Somebody knows exactly what happened and somebody knows somebody who knows exactly what happened, but people aren't talking and it's still ten years later, it puzzles us now.
I think that people automatically key on the fact that it was a jealous lover who might have killed her. Again, I'm not so sure that that's the case. I'm not so sure that it was someone who was having an affair with her who killed her. Maybe someone who wanted to have an affair with her and she wouldn't reciprocate, something like that.
But, I don't know if the glove has anything to do with it. I don't know why the glove was there. I don't that the glove is as necessary a clue. You would think with the people close to her as many people have been swabbed, if the glove was directly involved something would've shown up on that. It would be interesting to find the person whose DNA is in that glove and find out what information they have. But I say it seems unlikely, you know a lot of times breaks in these cases come from the most unlikely of sources and unlikely of places. Somebody gets arrested for something else and wants to cut a deal and has some information. Hey, you know, I could tell you a little bit more about the Grinstead case. That might come another ten years down the road, but the glove, what everybody is keyed is the glove and the black truck.
I remember on the Nancy Grace show being asked about the black truck. What significance that may or may not have had. Obviously it's suspicious that someone’s coming by in a vehicle like that or in a vehicle period along that same time. At the same time, with as many relationships as Tara reportedly had, knowing how people are in our area, it wouldn't be that unusual for somebody to ride by her house looking for her.
Payne Lindsey : He told me an interesting story about a Nancy Grace interview that was held in Ocilla. He was in the room when it all happened.
Robert Preston: I was sitting in the interview and then during that portion of the interview I didn't have a lot to say. I was listening to the exchange between Nancy and the other guest. They basically accused Marcus of killing Tara on that broadcast. You can see Nancy's show, you know what her on-air persona is, and I was sitting there listening to that. As a reporter, I would not dare get into the territory that she was getting into. I was thinking she could be liable for these statements that they're making. Apparently, the Harper family was watching it as well and they called their attorney who was Tom Pajovis, very well known, prominent attorney in our area, lives in Ocilla. Once the show, I mean immediately after we went off the air, he walks in. Now, I come from a family of attorneys and I've heard Tom Pajovis' name mentioned many, many, years in my family but I'd never seen him before. I didn't know who this gentleman was, but he walked.
It was a Friday night and he was basically in his pajamas, but he walked in very confidently, with an heir of authority about him. He went up and demanded to speak to the producers. I saw them talking, but I didn't hear exactly what was said. They came back to us and said as we went into the next show which we were going to tape and play later that we couldn't get into Marcus during the next segment. I don't know exactly what was said but there was a threat of legal action and they issued some kind of apology then didn't discuss that again. The Harper family took very swift action that night and to my knowledge, Nancy never took that same tone about Marcus on her show again.
The spotlight always seems to come back to Marcus Harper, but I think you stated this on the podcast, that nobody has been vetted to the degree that he has. Thus far nothing has been linked to him. Everything, at least on the surface, seems to point back to him. His military training, the strained nature of their relationship, there was obviously some jealousy issues going on. Tara was evidently seeing more than one person and there just seems to be a lot that could cause someone in his position to do something drastic. But, he's been vetted up and down, top to bottom, front to back, and everything seems to check out. I wonder if while the investigation focused on him and while officers and agencies worked their way through the vetting process with him, if that didn't give someone who was, if not equally close, time to cover their traps.
Payne Lindsey : The spotlight was definitely and immediately on him from day one.
Robert Preston: And I think the focus on Marcus Harper gave he or she the opportunity that they needed to make sure that they covered their tracks. He's been vetted more than anyone else has and things have been pretty consistent with him. At some point, if you are lying, you're going to slip up and give something away. You have to keep telling lie, after lie, after lie, after lie, to cover everything up. Either he didn't do it or he is a very good and very consistent liar.
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Payne Lindsey : When the news about Tara's disappearance spread through the media it quickly gained national coverage. One of the most consistent reporters on the case in those early stages was Nancy Grace. She's actually one of the few reporters that were allowed inside Tara's house at that time. She's interviewed countless people in this case. So I reached out to her and sure enough she was down to talk to me about it.
Nancy Grace: I recall first hearing about Tara Grinstead's disappearance. The moment I heard about it, I knew something was off. This woman did not leave on her own volition. She was just too close to her own family and I guess I projected how I would feel, because there is no way in H E double L that I would have left my mother and father worried sick about me. There's no way she would leave her upset, wondering, hurting, ... I knew immediately Tara was dead.
I'm from Macon, Georgia. The really big county out in the middle of really nowhere where all you could see were tall pine trees and soy bean fields, that's where I come from. Hawkinsville is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from where I grew up so I was very, very familiar with Hawkinsville. Having driven with my mom and dad, those back roads all throughout Georgia. Hawkinsville is very, very rural. It's got a vibrant little town with a county seat, but beyond that very rural and you start getting into a lot of unincorporated area. Her body could be anywhere and I would put money on it that it was expertly hidden.
I remember meeting with Tara's mother and going through her house. The impression I can give you, it was like a doll house. It was small, very small, but it was perfectly furnished. Attention to detail and she did it herself, Tara did. Decorated beautifully, she had wall hangings and objects of art, it was very beautifully done. It looked like ... I remember when I walked in, I was first struck that it looked like a doll house. It clearly reflected who she was, to me anyway.
Payne Lindsey : Well we both know there's like very little evidence in this case, besides the latex glove. But the condition of the house inside, did it present to you that there could've been a struggle there or do you remember?
Nancy Grace: It was in tip top shape. I didn't see any signs of a struggle, but of course if a man had kidnapped her, especially a man that she knew, there may not have been struggle. She may have opened the door and stepped outside. But another thing about Tara, she went Valdosta State, now that's where she got her Masters. She was a teacher, as we all know now. She also went to Middle Georgia college. I was very familiar with those because I went to Valdosta originally and that's where I met my fiance, Keith who was later murdered. In fact, the baseball field there has a dedication plaque still sitting there in the blazers. So that caught my attention as well. It was close to my home, where I was born.
When I met her mother, I became totally dedicated to trying to find the answer to the riddle of her disappearance. Many people seem to believe they knew who the killer is. Gossip, rumor, and innuendo was rife all around town. Everybody didn't agree, now we know there is only one killer, they can't all be right. But I do agree with them, especially to the extent that I believe, I know, I'll go out on a limb, I know her killer knew her well. Where she lived at the time is not on a busy thoroughfare. It's not say, you're walking in the streets of Manhattan or the Bronx or Hong Kong and you're surrounded by millions of people, anybody can snatch you. Not so where Tara went missing. It's somebody that she knew and local, that was in her life. That's what happened. She wasn't the victim of a hit and run and they hid the body. It wasn't an accident. She was targeted and murdered.
That's the easy part. The hard part is proving which person that knew her wanted to murder her. I think that whoever murdered Tara and hid her body, disposed of her body, knew very well what they were doing. I hate to say a criminal is smart, because if you're that smart you're not going to be a criminal. But, whoever murdered Tara knew what to do and what not to do. I would be willing to bet that her body is totally decomposed by now or possibly even, and I hate to say this because I don't want to hurt her mother's feelings, possibly even dismembered and strung in different parts.
Payne Lindsey : One of the main issues with this case, especially if you're me trying to dig back into it, in Georgia the Georgia Open Records basically locks up those case files so the GBI has this huge case file which has now grown to the largest case file in the history of Georgia. How do you feel about that? Do you feel that they should limit access like that or should people like you and me who want to solve this have access to that?
Nancy Grace: I think that we have closed investigated files for a reason. However, once a case goes cold and police aren't getting answers, I really don't see why the entire case file is kept secret. Certain things for instance, if they had a person of interest and they investigated it and eliminated that person as a suspect that would be in the file and you don't want that released because that person is innocent. They would be forever smeared by that association to a murder. So I get why some things are kept secure and secret, but for the bulk of investigative material, I think it should be released.
Payne Lindsey : Do you think there is a case to be made here for at least some of the records to be made available to the public?
Nancy Grace: Absolutely. Cause we're not getting any more forensic evidence. That's over. That was possibly over the night they realized she was possibly missing. It may have already been hidden or disposed of. But what we have now is putting together a puzzle because there is no more physical evidence to be had. That possible would be bolstered by the timeline and potential motives. Then you start with the timeline ruling out anybody that's got an alibi, and I mean an airtight alibi. I don't mean, I was at home reading a book by myself - alibi. I mean, you've got a witness or a phone call or a cell phone triangulation to place you at a certain spot. Bam, if you don't have that you're in the pot of suspects as far as I'm concerned.
Payne Lindsey : How do you feel about the latex glove found in Tara's yard?
Nancy Grace: Based on what I saw in her home, she would not have had any piece of trash in her yard. Her car was immaculate, her home was immaculate. She was always very put together. I don't think she would have anything in her yard. If she had seen that the day before, the night before, she would've picked it up and thrown it in the trash. Which leads me to believe that it was not there the day before, which clearly connects it to the time of her disappearance.
Payne Lindsey : Why do you think it doesn't match anybody's DNA?
Nancy Grace: The same reason Jon Benet's underwear doesn't necessarily match anybody's DNA. In the Jon Benet Ramsey case, detectives reportedly went out and bought underwear, girl's underwear, somebody’s underwear, at a store and tested it immediately. It had DNA on it from I guess, the factory where it was manufactured. Somebody else's DNA on that really does not impress me now that I know that. I think the glove should be retested with all of the developments in DNA testing, specifically the Y-filer DNA technique, which they are reportedly using to retest pieces of Jon Benet Ramsey evidence. It's a whole new thing. There's a lot of new developments since Tara went missing. I think all the evidence should be retested, that's a start.
There was something about the inside of her house too, I never really never discussed it because I didn't have any evidence to base it on. It's like, bring me a psychic into a courtroom. It's just a hunch really. Something seemed amiss. There was something hanging in the air that was just wrong. She was super busy and she had a little bit of a, let me just say, a complicated love life. Whenever you have a single beautiful woman who has dated several people focus really goes on her love life and there's a reason for that. I know it seems unfair, and in someways it is, but statistically that is where homicides are born. You look first at the lover, the husband, the ex, and then you move from there to friends, relatives, family. You move out from there to the grocery boy, to the clerk, to the gas station, to the delivery guy, the mailman, the FedEx, the yardman. Then you move out from there until you finally get to a stranger attack, not connected, which in my mind are the hardest cases to solve. A random attack.
Usually killers are caught because of their relationship to the victim, overwhelming. I think that in this case it's not unusual in that aspect. I think that the killer is close to home.
Payne Lindsey : Her cellphone was inside on the charger but her purse and her keys were missing. Do you think that Tara left her house willingly that night?
Nancy Grace: That makes me think she may have gone willingly, although I don't believe it was like her not to take her cellphone. That makes me think she left suddenly without the intent to leave. Your podcast been a real inspiration for me. It really has. Although it has brought back the whole Tara Grinstead murder, people say missing, she was murdered. She's dead. She met a horrible brutal ending and her family still grieves so let's not make a mistake about that.
My podcast is Crime Stories with Nancy Grace. We are creating a feature where we can actually take calls from listeners. I'm super excited about it. You can reach it of course on your cell phone, by getting the app, but on our new website crime online dot com which I'm so proud of. You know what's interesting? Towards the end of my time at HLM, I'd tried for several years to launch a crime website. I noticed that the cases we helped solved were all solved because of the internet. I got to thinking about it, the show Nancy Grace, I talk about it like it's not me, like it's something else. Nancy Grace aired at eight o'clock live Eastern and then it repeated. So that information went out for just those two hours during the day. Crime goes on twenty-four seven, three sixty-five and so does the internet. You get action. You get results and that really spurred me. I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be anything but a Shakespearean literature professor, that was my dream.
Payne Lindsey : Really?
Nancy Grace: I never planned to become a prosecutor, but it only happened after my fiance was murdered.
Payne Lindsey : Wow.
Nancy Grace: I never planned or considered getting on TV.
Payne Lindsey : With Marcus Harper, his history, he used to be a police officer in Ocilla. Part of his alibi is riding around with a police officer in Ocilla at the time. You have the whole possible affair going on with another cop from a different town, so you have all these men in badges. Do you think that has any sort of effect on why this case is unsolved?
Nancy Grace: I think that you may have an embedded belief that a friend or coworker's innocent and you may take their statements at face value. I doubt pretty seriously there was an overt cover up such as they know the boyfriend did and covered it up. I don't believe that. You know, loose lips sink ships. The only people who can really keep quiet, I think, are ex-cops because they know the deal.
Payne Lindsey : Met with Maurice again in person. We discussed in detail some of his findings and when he was first hired on this case over eleven years ago now.
Maurice: When I was there in march of '06 the car was still there. They'd ripped that car all to pieces. That's when I found that stuff under the front spoiler. That debris stuff, looked like marigolds. It looked like mulch or something, but it was basically gutted down to looking like marigolds.
Payne Lindsey : So what is that?
Maurice: It's a flower. That flower with the seeds and the sticky things in there.
Payne Lindsey : So that stuck in the front of the car?
Maurice: No, it was actually in the spoiler underneath... in the cup of the spoiler.
Payne Lindsey : So is that something that was in her yard or her driver or from a tree or something? Or did that come from some other place?
Maurice: It must've come from some other place.
Payne Lindsey : For that to be on her spoiler, how would it get there?
Maurice: It would have to be run through some marigolds and stuff. Some of it got trapped up in there.
Payne Lindsey : Do you still have the actual...?
Maurice: Oh, two years ago, cleaning up my wife said, I just said throw it away.
Payne Lindsey : No!
Maurice: I did. Colder in Alaska, man.
You know the problem is that you got two people, some with law enforcement experience, one and the other one is a detective. So you're dealing with people who know crime scenes or at least know law enforcement procedures, right? See there's really no crime scene here. There's no body and there's no crime scene. That makes it a double whammy here in trying to solve this case. She was not abducted from her home, I do not believe that at all. It's a bad situation because a lot of people got the fingers pointing at them and suspicious and all that. That's bad because these people got lives. You've heard that statement, right? There's no such thing as a perfect crime without some errors made by law enforcement. I think it was a crime in the heat of the moment, but planned afterwards.
Payne Lindsey : Something brought up recently by one of our listeners was that Jim Hickey, the guy who received the text message from Tara saying, "I'm cold" was wrong about the time of the football game in his interview. Maurice commented on this.
Maurice: Right, he was wrong about the football game. He was actually in Athens. The Georgia football game was actually during the day time. It started at twelve, probably over at four. Tara was at the barbecue at eight o'clock when she sent the text to Hickey. If she sent the text to Hickey at eight o'clock or after eight o'clock at night there's no way that he could've been at the ball game and got it. You couldn't have got a text message from Tara when you were at the Georgia game saying it's cold. It was encouraged by Troy Davis to send that message because she wasn't at the Davis' house until after eight o'clock p.m. and you were long gone from the Georgia game.
Payne Lindsey : An interesting point for sure, but in his defense it's been over eleven years since that happened. I reached back out to Jim Hickey about this. He didn't have time for another interview on the podcast right now. He told me on Facebook that he probably just had his times mixed up. The football game was at noon that day, it would've been over by four p.m.. He said they usually stayed up in the box for a little while after the game so it could've been night time when he got the message. He seemed sincere when he talked to me.
While I was with Maurice, I asked him a very important question. Who was the last person to see Tara alive that you know about?
Maurice: Troy Davis. Usually in law enforcement you look at the people who first found them. Who brought attention to something or found something or found a body, whatever. And the last person to see them alive. But the last person to see her alive, that I know of, was Troy Davis.
Payne Lindsey : To refresh your memory, Troy Davis had the barbecue that night. From what we know, he was the last person to see Tara alive. Troy was also friends with Jim Hickey. He encouraged her to send that text message that said "I'm cold". Troy walked Tara to her car when she left the barbecue and that was the last time she was ever seen.
This was very important information and somebody that I needed to talk to. I reached out to him on Facebook. We eventually agreed to meet up at a local bar in South Georgia for an interview. It was pretty loud in there but I did my best to clean up the audio.
Troy Davis: Jim Hickey and I went to Georgia together.
Payne Lindsey : Okay, cool.
Troy Davis: We didn't know each other then, but ...
Payne Lindsey : Didn't he play?
Troy Davis: He played for Georgia.
Payne Lindsey : Okay, cool.
Troy Davis: So I watched him play, but we were there at the same time. I knew him from a football standpoint, but I didn't know him personally until later.
Payne Lindsey : I talked to Jim Hickey awhile ago and he said that that night he received a text from Tara. It said, "I'm cold". What do you remember about that whole thing or do you remember that?
Troy Davis: I remember her sending one to him. Well, it was cold. Course I probably pushed her a little bit. Gave her a stir, "Where is this somebody?" Ol' Jim, he'd be perfect. Cause I had introduced them one time. When we were at a We were at a condo in St. Simons. She actually stayed with us in a 4 bedroom condo type of thing. So she stayed with us and went out with him. I probably pushed that one a little bit.
Payne Lindsey : Were you talking to Jim that night too?
Troy Davis: No, not that I recall. I don't recall talking to him.
Payne Lindsey : You kind of just knew that she was texting him?
Troy Davis: Well, she was sitting right here.
Payne Lindsey : Yeah, and you were kind of like, "Tell him this"
Troy Davis: She's telling me. Now that's one thing you'll never catch me doing. Your phone rings, you won't say who’s that man. I don't do that.
Payne Lindsey : I asked him more about the barbecue, when Tara arrived that night, what happened while she was there.
Troy Davis: Most everybody had wrapped up the eating part of it. The game was auburn, and I could've told you this now, years ago, It was Auburn somebody that night. We had a deck and a television, back then we rolled on and off the deck. And everybody else when they eat were inside finishing, you know their dessert, cocktail, whatever they were doing in there. Course, I was out there running the fire pit on the deck, tv for the next game. Tara came up. She rarely ate pork, because the beauty pageant thing and training. Her nutrition was huge so she rarely ate pork. Well that night we grilled pork chops and I grilled steak. I knew that she would probably be coming by and so we had a little bit of both. So when she came in and she made her plate. I said, "Go ahead and make your plate. My daughter and I are on the deck by ourselves." I said, "You go on in there and make your plate, you eat in there and come out here." When she came out, my daughter sitting here and she sat down here and I'm sitting here. I can see the television. She had pork chop. I said, "Tara, you don't eat pork chop. I made steak for you." "I know, but I just want to do something different." I said, "Okay, eat what you want."
Payne Lindsey : He could be over analyzing it, but Tara did something out of character that night by eating pork when she never ate pork. At least, according to Troy. Wasn't sure what it meant, but it was interesting.
What time did she get there, you think?
Troy Davis: Oh, Lord have mercy. It was an ESPN night game so it had to be eight o'clock, seven thirty, eight o'clock.
Payne Lindsey : Had the game started yet?
Troy Davis: It had, yeah I think it had started. But it was quite early. So it had to be eight o'clock. She stayed until the local news that came on, WALB's local news. Cause at the end of that game she helped us get the TV in. So she hung out for a little while. I always walk people to the door, always. It's just something I do. And then back then on the deck, I walked out of the deck. So there was a false wall that goes down the stairs, the deck’s over here, her car's parked right there. But I just walk down on the deck and went and looked down at her. Make sure she gets in the car and next weekend was the Florida game. You know we'd be doing the Florida game so you come on next weekend, come on down. But you know what, come to think of it, the sweet potato festival was that weekend... I think it was the next weekend or was it? No... ...Well, the Georgia Florida game was next weekend. Georgia Florida was huge then we'll have a crowd. You come on over to the Georgia Florida next weekend, "Oh, I'll be there" she said. I said, okay.
So she backs out, turns right to go home, drives the two or three city blocks from the house and that's it. That's the last time I saw her.
Payne Lindsey : Pretty crazy.
Troy Davis: Last time I saw her.
Payne Lindsey : So what do you think that was that she left?
Troy Davis: Eleven fifteen.
Payne Lindsey : Yup. She didn't look bothered. Did she say see was going home?
Troy Davis: Yes, she said she was going home. Said she's going home, put on her pajamas, and watch the pageant video. That's it.
Payne Lindsey : Remember that infamous pageant tape? This is where it came from, but also remember they never found that pageant tape.
So they never found that pageant tape, which is one thing, it was kind of odd.
Troy Davis: Really? I don't know. Maybe she had meant the practice tape from the night before? Like I said, she might've been saying this is what I'm going to go do.
Payne Lindsey : I asked Troy about Tara's behavior at the party. If anything she did stood out to him. He did say that there was one thing he found very odd. Tara was getting a lot of phone calls that night and one call in particular really stuck out to him over the years.
Troy Davis: I'm sitting here, she's sitting here, and my daughter's sitting here. I love a good cocktail, I like a good cocktail. I'm sitting there just happy as I can be. Them two their talking and I'm talking to her whatever she wants me to talk and she'll take a call. She tells me who it is and somebody called about the beauty pageant. I can't which particular girl called but some girl called about a beauty pageant, she told me. Best sure thing. She's just telling me. She got a call and she talked at length with this person for a phone for me at length. What caught me was she says "I love you too." That was a little louder than the rest of the conversation and she brings up, I don't ask one word, she starts volunteering. That's an old friend of mine. I said, Okay. He's a police officer in Perry, I think it was. Perry.
Payne Lindsey : Thanks guys for listening to episode twelve. There's six more episodes left this season.