Episode 14

The Pecan Grove

Original Air Date    03.13.2017

In This Episode

Immediately after Ryan Duke’s arrest, Payne and Maurice start hearing mentions of Bo Dukes as a likely accomplice. Payne reports the search of the pecan orchard, quickly followed by Bo’s arrest. Legal expert Phillip Holloway explains how gag orders work, and a former associate of Bo Dukes recalls partying in the pecan orchard years ago and that Ryan Duke might have driven a black pick-up truck…

“I think the GBI's done a great job. Justice is a finicky thing, and subjective.” - Bo Dukes

People in this Episode

Marcus Harper
A year before Tara’s disappearance, Marcus broke off their six-year relationship, which left Tara broken-hearted. A week before her disappearance, Marcus and Tara became entangled in an argument, leaving police and detectives convinced that Marcus was a prime suspect before his alibi cleared him.

Marcus Harper

Ex-Boyfriend and Former Police Officer

Bo Dukes
Eight days after the arrest of Ryan Alexander Duke, Bo Dukes pleaded guilty to concealing the death of another, tampering with evidence, and hindering the punishment of a criminal. Dukes was in the same class as Ryan Duke at Irwin County High School.

Bo Dukes

Arrested Accomplice

Ryan Alexander Duke
Charged with the alleged murder, burglary, and aggravated assault of Tara Grinstead. Duke graduated from Irwin County High School, the same high school where Tara taught. He was never considered a suspect by the police.

Ryan Alexander Duke

Arrested Suspect

Dr. Maurice Godwin
Private forensic detective who investigated Tara’s disappearance, beginning in 2006. He investigated her home and firmly believed there were signs of foul play.

Dr. Maurice Godwin

Private Forensic Detective

Evidence in this Episode

Black Truck

Black Truck

“And here I was hoping that the pecan orchard search would end with answers. But at the same time, I knew that finding Tara's body would finally make her murder a reality.” - Payne Lindsey


Source: If it's all right, can I just talk?

Payne Lindsey: Yeah.

Source: Okay. So is it okay to say the name [censored]?

Payne Lindsey: Yeah. What about him?

Source: So what I hear is that he's involved too.

If it's all right, can I just talk?

Payne Lindsey: Yeah.

Source: Okay, So is it okay to say the name Bo Dukes?

Payne Lindsey: Yeah. What about him?

Subject: So what I hear is that he's involved too. I knew Bo was crazy. I knew he was off.

Source 2: Okay this is kind of weird. There's another kid that they're looking for, same age, around the same age his name is [censored].

There's another kid that they're looking for, same age, around the same age his name is Bo Dukes. With an S.

Intro: Ten years ago today marked the last time any reported seeing or talking with Tara Grinstead.

Officially, people are calling this a missing person's case.

GBI officials say investigators [inaudible 00:02:08]

$80,000 reward is being offered [inaudible 00:02:11]

Where is Tara Grinstead?

Payne Lindsey: From Tenderfoot TV in Atlanta, this is Up and Vanished, the investigation of Tara Grinstead. I'm your host Payne Lindsey.

Payne Lindsey: Before we get started today, I have a very important message to share with you. I have an official statement from Marcus Harper's attorney, and he asked me to share this on the podcast. Marcus Harper's attorney says the following: My client sends his sincerest condolences to the family of Tara Grinstead, especially to her father and stepmother for their tragic loss. He also extends his appreciation to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement for their tireless efforts to determine the identity of parties involved in this case. He asks that the public, and especially the media, respect his privacy, and that of his loved ones as they begin the process of closure. Sincerely, Cody Daniel.

A few weeks ago, just hours after Ryan Duke's arrest, I was sitting in my car in Ocilla, and I gave Dr. Galwin a call.

So how many more people are involved in this thing are we thinking?

Maurice Godwin: Possibly Bo Dukes, with a S. Ryan Duke, without a S, and Bo Dukes with a S. But if I hear anything else I'll let you know. You take care now.

Payne Lindsey: You too.

There's been a lot of speculation that Ryan Duke couldn't have killed Tara alone. And then gotten away with it for 11 years. People kept suggesting to me that he wasn't the brightest guy, much less a criminal mastermind. I knew the GBI was still investigating other suspects, but the pieces started to fall in place when I got a call from, believe it or not, my Dad.

Payne's Dad: Yeah so this is what happened to us. A good friend of Jimmy's was out in Texas the other day, and met this guy out there, sure enough that's the guy he met is from Ocilla, the guy said I've been contacted by the GBI 'cause they said they found Tara Grinstead's body in my pecan grove.

But anyway Jimmy is gonna give me [censored]'s phone number, but that's who told Jimmy this.

Payne’s Mom: He listens to podcast.

Payne's Dad: Yeah he listens to the podcast. So he's up on who you are.

Payne Lindsey: Okay, what's the number?

Payne Lindsey: I called this person, who requested to remain anonymous. The pecan grove he was talking about belonged to Randy Hudson. He also mentioned that Randy Hudson's nephew was now missing. That nephew was Bo Dukes.

My dad texted me and said, "Hey they found Tara Grinstead's body on this pecan grove."

Unknown speaker: Was it Hudson, by chance?

Payne Lindsey: It was Randy Hudson.

Unknown speaker: And Bo Dukes is kin to the Hudsons. The Hudson family in Ocilla, that's probably one of the most prominent families. Mean, Hudson Pecan, there's a lot of money in that family. This is gonna be really interesting.

Payne Lindsey: As it turns out, the rumor of this pecan grove in Fitzgerald, wasn't far off. The GBI streamed into the Hudson family's pecan grove in Fitzgerald and sirens whirred as officers searched for evidence. But the sobering reality of it all was that they were searching for Tara's body. And here I was, hoping that the pecan orchard search would end with answers. But at the same time, I knew that finding Tara's body would finally make her murder a reality.

MIsc TV Reports: More than 40 GBI agents swarmed a pecan orchard in Ben Hill County this afternoon. They were digging for clues to help solve one of the state's most notorious missing persons cases.

The search for the murder victim Tara Grinstead led investigators to this South Georgia pecan orchard in Ben Hill County near Fitzgerald.

We watched a parade of GBI trucks and other vehicles leave this pecan field.

Anthropologists used specialized equipment to sort through the dirt hoping to find skeletal remains of the missing former beauty queen.

Payne Lindsey: Randy Hudson, the owner of the pecan grove, spoke to a local news station after the GBI search broke.

Randy Hudson: Well what I'd like to say is first, our most sincere prayers go out to the Grinstead family. I'd also like to say that we are cooperating with the local Sheriff's agency, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in regards to this matter on our farm.

Tony Thomas: Yeah, our helicopter flew over yesterday and they got quite a set up out there in the middle of the field.

Payne Lindsey: That was Tony Thomas, a reporter for WSB TV's Channel Two in Atlanta. They were first on the scene of the pecan orchard in Fitzgerald. While he was there, he was able to speak to Special Agent JT Rikketson from the GBI, who's in charge of the Grinstead case.

Tony asked him a few questions about the investigation, and he got back some pretty interesting answers.

Tony Thomas: He didn't have a lot except I think he mentally slipped up at one point.

Payne Lindsey: Okay.

Tony Thomas: 'Cause he said, we are interviewing quote "others who were involved." And later I asked him to clarify and he wouldn't. He said, "I'm not gonna speculate on any more arrests." But I think that accidentally slipped out.

Payne Lindsey: Officially, the GBI hadn't said there was anybody else involved in Tara's murder. But JT Rikketson's slip-up, suggests that maybe they know more than they're telling us.

One of Ryan Duke's old high school buddies called to talk to me about his relationship with Ryan, and how he didn't think he had it in him to do this thing alone.

H.S. friend of R.D.: Like I haven't really processed it yet. Like I said to you, Ryan and I were really tight. Just having a lot of trouble accepting it. Just feel like I know him too well to know that I wouldn't ... I don't want to suppose anything, I don't want to rule out his role in something, but he's just not alpha enough to do this. Yeah, he's a big coward, and I just don't see this going down the way that it seems to be right now. So I'm really curious what more information you may have that may, they mentioned a few names that are running through my head because I just know this guy pretty well. And I just don't think he's capable of doing this sort of mastermind of such an event. Even if it's an accident or whatever, I just don't see it.

Basically our friendship was just hanging out on the weekends, it progressed from drinking and staying up late to smoking weed and then once I got to Athens, which that was weird for a friendship like that, because Ryan's got no sort of aspiration. And when you go through life with the kind of depressed state, like he's Eeyore, man. He is Eeyore, he is like the saddest dude, and for me, as an 18 year old, I was sad and angry too. So that's what we bonded over. You know I had a real weird childhood, I was raised by my great-grandmother, so that was unique and then Ryan came from a divorced family, and his brother got to live with his dad, which I don't know. There's gotta be some kind of equation that's always in your head, like am I equal to my brother? Does my love for my mom equal to my love for my dad? You know a weird childhood.

And so he was dealing with that. So despite that we were kind of from different sides of the tracks, or had done different things at our respective high schools, I think probably the only thing in common was we had both played high school football, at least some of our time. But I'm into academic stuff and he's into just kind of getting by, but we clicked over this kind of funk, or fear of the upcoming ... you know, girls down there they want a strong type of guy, tough guy, like their dads or whatever. And Ryan's a softie. And I just that had a lot to do with his situation, his parents' situation, but he didn't deal with it in healthy ways. He drinks a lot. And again, I don't know 2016 Ryan, but I'm just telling you based on the trajectory he was aiming at that he's probably still drinking a lot, he's probably still smoking a lot of cigarettes and just kind of like, "Woe is me."

Payne Lindsey: After reminiscing on their high school friendship, he told me that he and Ryan kind of lost touch after he had left for college at the University of Georgia in Athens. He then told me about one of the last times he'd interacted with Ryan. It was kind of a weird situation. A time that Ryan called him out of the blue a few years after he moved away from Ocilla.

H.S. friend of R.D.: Yeah and I remember he called a couple times and I was like, in the building so I stepped outside and I answered, and it was just like the same old, "Hey buddy," that morose tone that okay things aren't going well in his life, lay it on me. And he really just wanted to tell me that he had hooked up with a girl I dated. And I don't even know when, I don't think it was like while we were dating, it was like ... regardless, it was way in the past. And he was like doing one of these conscience cleanses.

That's another thing that's troubling me is like Ryan Duke keeping this secret for what is it 11 plus years? It just doesn't fit with the person I knew. And you heard me, I only knew him for like two, two and a half years, but I felt like I really saw most sides of him, and I don't see this ... I'm like trembling thinking about it. Like I just don't see it. But I know somehow I grew from being friends with Ryan Duke. You know I somehow got motivated to be whatever it is I am now.

So I don't know. It's rough. It's rough. And I mean you could just see it coming. You knew you were probably gonna get stuck with him if he stuck around, if you stayed closer. I could see it coming to a desperate point where he just feels like he has no other option but to steal from someone, but I can't understand the violent part, 'cause I just didn't see any glimpse of it. And actually the friend who texted me to say, "Hey have you seen all the news yet, you know they had a press conference." That friend was like, "Why are you hanging out with these guys?" I knew that they were kind of a riff-raff crowd and not really an ambitious crowd, the type that can bring you down.

Payne Lindsey: When you say "they," who were the other friends?

H.S. friend of R.D.: I do say "they." So I met him and Bo Dukes at the same time. I was closer with Ryan, but to be honest, they were pretty much a package duo.

Payne Lindsey: On Bo though, what was he like?

H.S. friend of R.D.: I think Bo always tried really hard to be eccentric and have these really random insightful thoughts, but then combined with that was just this real laziness. I know that he's stolen from people. I didn't click with him 'cause I just couldn't relate to him. He didn't come from struggles, his grandpa was a state senator or whatever. And so he just kind of could have whatever. He would just fuck up opportunities.

Bo was just ... I could see him doing a line of coke and then saying something stupid like, "Let's do this dumb idea." Like that I'd buy so much quicker, and that's not fair I'm just ... I just completely threw a theory out there that's complete supposition. But it's just like, he was way more unhinged, not that I ever saw anything with violence or anything like that, but he cared more about himself, less about other people, and I think that's probably what I'm getting at when I say I didn't see that side of Ryan. I saw a bit of care in Ryan. Ryan would have conversations with my grandma. Bo would walk past my grandma.

If I just had the two suspects in front of me, and there was a bit of selfishness or soullessness that existed in one, that I would not have ever of accused the other of having.

Payne Lindsey: Ever since Ryan Duke's arrest, all I was hearing was his connection to Bo Dukes, how they were kind of a package deal. And of the two, Bo was actually the more volatile one. While I was still in Ocilla, I drove by Bo Dukes' house, to see if he was home.

He called her, right?

Unknown Passenger: Yeah, keep going and it should be the next road to the right. It's ... you'll turn on Apple Street.

Payne Lindsey: I wonder if he is gone.

But he wasn't there.

Unknown Passenger: Well there's definitely nobody home.

Payne Lindsey: I was really conflicted about what to do. I was 99% sure that Bo was involved. But I felt like it was too early for me to mention his name in the podcast.

Dusty Vassey: I think it's true. I think he's involved for now. But I don't know if they're gonna be charging him, I don't know.

Payne Lindsey: Since I've heard Ryan Duke, I've heard Bo Dukes, with an S.

Dusty Vassey: I don't know. I mean I feel like it's true.

Payne Lindsey: You've heard it from too many people. And too many credible people.

In keeping with journalistic ethics, I decided to just censor his name, giving him the benefit of the doubt. But now, the cat is out of the bag.

MIsc TV Reports: A second suspect is now facing charges in the disappearance of Tara Grinstead. Bo Dukes.

Not one but two former students from that school under arrest.

Bo Dukes is charged with tampering with evidence, concealing a death, and hindering the apprehension of a criminal.

A classmate of Ryan Duke, Bo Dukes, whose family is well-known in the community. Investigators say they believe that Bo Dukes helped destroy Grinstead's body and hide it in the Pecan Grove in Fitzgerald.

Payne Lindsey: The confirmation I'd been waiting for. Bo Dukes was involved.

I called Maurice to see how he was taking all of this. So much had happened in this case in a matter of days. And I wanted to hear his reaction. After working a case for almost 12 years, what did it feel like to finally have some answers?

Maurice: I'm just in shock over it. I think the investigation's still going on. Yeah it's just a very odd situation and there's more to it. Somebody that did not have a criminal record, no learned experience of breaking into people houses, no learned experience of criminality did not do this as a random thing. They just didn't.

Payne Lindsey: I can't figure out why Ryan was at her house that night.

Maurice: That's the thing. They didn't walk around or riding around and say yeah, I'm gonna choose that. Because in the past, I mean unless he got by with a lot of stealing and burglary in the past, he didn't have a criminal record and I doubt he got by with it. And he didn't just choose that one night to do this one thing. He went there with a purpose for somebody, or he went there with a purpose himself, and he got mad and something turned nasty. Why did he choose her? I think he had more help too from Bo than what is being said.

Here's the thing, Bo's not charged with anything in Irwin County, and Ryan's not charged with anything in Ben Hill County. See Ryan is not charged with anything that Bo is charged with. Now but then he could be, he could be, but he's not. So if Ryan was out in Ben Hill at that Pecan Orchard, why just not throw those charges in there? So he just passes his body off to somebody, his friend, and lets him handle it?

Payne Lindsey: And the friend just says, "Okay. No problem?"

Maurice: That's right. In my opinion, both of them were in this thing equally together. One just saw a way out with lesser time. And that happens a lot in a lot of cases that the person who actually did the crime, make it seem like the other person did it, and the person did the seriousness of the crime turns state's evidence and gets lesser time. Because they're the one that caught the plea first. Yeah that happens all the time. Yeah it's a odd situation. I don't think it's over with by any means.

Payne Lindsey: Is any part of you relieved?

Maurice: I'm elated. I'm thrilled that an arrest has been made and stuff like that. But I feel a whole sadness, and then I feel a emptiness. It's like running 200 mile an hour, and hitting a brick wall, and nowhere to go.

Payne Lindsey: Even with all the recent developments in this case, it still struck Maurice as strange. The fact that Ryan randomly picked Tara's house to burglarize that night with no previous criminal record. And the fact that he apparently pawned Tara's body off to Bo, who willingly helped him dispose of it with no regard to his own criminal involvement. It all just seemed too unbelievable.

Who were Ryan Duke and Bo Dukes really? I felt it was time to dive into their past a bit more. Like Maurice said, Ryan has no criminal history. But as for Bo, it's a different story.

Rob: In April of 2013, Bo Dukes and his wife Emily pleaded guilty to stealing more than $150,000 from the United States Army. Dukes, as a unit supply specialist for the US Army, ordered televisions, cameras, power tools, copper wires, and other property, and then fraudulently billed the merchandise to the Army through the General Services Administration. After having the items delivered to his personal residence in Savannah, Georgia, Dukes and his wife would pawn them off for personal financial gain. Dukes was sentenced to 27 months in Federal Prison, three years supervised release, and was ordered to repay more than $134,000 to the Federal Government.

Payne Lindsey: Bo Dukes has been arrested, but before he was arrested, just a few weeks ago actually, he was showing some very interesting behavior.

MIsc TV Report: The two men charged in connection to Tara Grinstead's 2005 murder, Bo Dukes and Ryan Duke are no strangers to each other. After Ryan Duke's arrest, podcast presenter Payne Lindsey says people started opening up to him. So he started trying to verify their statements. Then noticed something eerie on his podcast site.

Payne Lindsey: Bo Dukes has been trolling the Up and Vanished discussion boards.

MIsc TV Report: We looked to see if we could find the comments left by Dukes. But because users remain anonymous, we couldn't see what exactly he said.

Payne Lindsey: But luckily, that's what screenshots are for. Yep, right before he was arrested, Bo Dukes, who's now facing three charges in connection with disposing Tara Grinstead's body, held his very own little Q&A session right here on the discussion board of the Up and Vanished website. On the Up and Vanished discussion board, Bo Dukes used the name AAA in all caps.

How do I know it was him? Well, he proved it himself. He posted a selfie on Twitter, facing the mirror with his hand sticking out. Then, in a separate close up picture, you could see the date written in pen on his palm. Among other things, Bo Dukes graciously declared that I didn't owe him an apology, but he did accuse me of being biased and quote, "Downright false in my interviews." But the highlight of his stint on the discussion board had to be this.

He wrote: I think the GBI's done a great job. Justice is a finicky thing, and subjective.

Yep, it sure is.

If you listened to last week's case evidence, you know that the judge in this case has issued a gag order. But since then, several prominent media outlets here in Georgia have filed a motion opposing this gag order, and this Thursday there's a court hearing about it. I called up Philip Holloway, the defense attorney in last week's case evidence to see if he could explain this whole situation a little better.

Philip Holloway: Well the defendant apparently requested a gag order and it was granted by the judge. The problem with the gag order is that it is extremely broad and the news media has intervened asking the judge to narrow the scope of it. Because, for example it's being interpreted by the court so that the court is saying that they can't even provide information to the media. Information that's normally public record, and that's why it's probably unconstitutionally over board.

They filed motions to intervene. It's a little bit unusual for a third party to intervene in a criminal case which is the state versus a certain defendant. In high profile cases, the media has a limited right to intervene when first amendment principles are involved. The first amendment guarantees the right to a free press and it also guarantees individuals rights to free speech. This particular order, for example, can be interpreted by friends of Tara Grinstead from even talking to the media about what she was like.

This Thursday the judge has set a hearing where lawyers for the various media outlets who have an interest in covering this case are going to ask the judge to clarify and probably ask her to narrow the scope of the order. Because the way it is right now, it affects people who don't even know that they may be affected by it. The judge could literally rule from the bench, and she could say, "You know what? You're right. This is too broad. I will clarify it and I will draft a more narrow order." She could take it under advisement. She could deny it from the bench. And she could ask the various media outlets to send her what they would propose in some type of an amended order. And then she could take all of that under advisement before she makes up her mind.

Payne Lindsey: For a while now, I've been hearing rumors about parties that happened on the same pecan orchard 11 years ago.

Unknown person: We rode out to that orchard.

And you know, it was nighttime. It was just a few people. Maybe three trucks around the fire. Fire was on the north side of the field, and the trucks were south side of the fire. I didn't really know them, but I knew one dude out there. And that was Bo Dukes.

You know, this Bo Dukes, I always kind of heard about him and known about him through high school and I didn't know hardly any of them people out there. The only person I can remember is Bo, and I sat in his truck and I talked with this guy for probably an hour. We were talking about a fight that we and my friend that was there, we got into the previous year, 2004. Me and this guy had a good little long conversation, and then something happened.

Bo Dukes got upset, I don't know if he was upset 'cause we were out there or what. But we got kind of a funny vibe and we just saw him get upset, we saw kind of a commotion at the back of the truck. He took his shirt off. I told Lewis, you know, "Let's go. Let's get out of here. We done been in trouble, let's get out of here."

And now that I see the pictures of this Ryan Duke guy, and I see where the pictures of where they're searching that orchard, and I been going over it for the last couple of days in my mind over and over again, and it seems to me like the guy I was talking to was Ryan Duke.

Payne Lindsey: What kind of truck did he drive?

Past assoc.: To the best of my memory, a black single cab truck.

Payne Lindsey: Thanks for listening guys. As a reminder, there will be a bonus episode this Thursday.