Original Air Date 07.31.2017
In This Episode
Part 2 of 2: After 2 years investigating and bringing weekly updates on the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, Up and Vanished Season 1 is coming to a close. Payne Lindsey takes it back to the beginning, bringing the case full circle, and uncovers a new theory in the process.
People in this Episode
Journalist, Ocilla Star
Dr. Maurice Godwin
Private Forensic Detective
Evidence in this Episode
Payne Lindsey: Awhile back, I was at The Ocilla Star with Dusty Vassey, and he shared with me some new information he heard.
Dusty Vassey: A nurse, okay, a friend of mine contacted me and told me that a nurse ... I've actually had multiple people tell me this story, but the first time I heard it was a friend told me that a nurse had spoke to Ryan Duke. I've since learned he was having blood drawn. She knew him separately from, I guess, before all this happened, and asked, "What happened?" He said, apparently, that she did not die. I mean, she died, but she was not murdered. That she died accidentally from an overdose. Now obviously I find that hard to believe because she didn't even drink. I've had multiple people tell me that she never, ever drank. The idea that she was doing drugs at a party, which apparently, that's what Ryan said. I believe it was supposed to be at a pecan orchard. Now I don't know what pecan orchard, but obviously multiple people have contacted me.
I believe that the conversation happened, I don't necessarily believe that the story that was told is true. I don't necessarily believe that. I believe that that is the story Ryan told, or at least close to it, but I just don't believe that that's necessarily true. No matter how I try to frame the story, or which way you try to look at it, there's problems. There's some flaw. Apparently according to one story I've heard, he was messed up the whole time. In this situation with the high adrenaline you don't get ... You don't come to your senses, you don't sober up some. The idea that it didn't happen in the house, there's problems with that. There's problems with everything I hear. I haven't heard one theory that just snapped together like a Lego.
The indictments are very vague, and there's that ... Used his hand. To me, because I've heard, whether it's true or not, I believe it, that Ryan has said that he hit her. Now that's multiple stories have said that. From what Bo seems to be saying is that, at least in one conversation he supposedly said that he's, that Ryan strangled her. Which one was it?
Payne Lindsey: Let's be clear about some things. Tara didn't do drugs. Tara didn't even drink. How could any of this be true? Even if Ryan did say these things to a nurse, how could he be trusted? After all, he's in jail for her murder. Proposing any other scenario for her death would obviously be in his best interest. A few weeks later, I heard the story again. This time from someone different. Maurice Godwin talked to somebody.
Source 1: Ryan had to be taken to the hospital for I guess, dialysis or something-
Maurice Godwin: Yeah.
Source 1: Said that while he was there, he had told a friend of theirs his version of the story of what happened. I didn't say anything at first when he mentioned that, I let him tell the story because I wanted to see what he was going to say before I said anything. He gave me the phlebotomist, he gave her name as [censored name] she basically, she said that she was like, "What the hell," I don't know if she knows Ryan or I mean, I doubt that she does she does. She's like, "What the hell, Ryan." He basically told her that Tara OD'd. Said at first, she was just out cold. They put her in ... I've never heard this name until today [censored name]
Maurice Godwin: Yeah.
Source 1: They put her in his truck, and left her, and then continued to, I guess, drink, party, socialize, whatever. Then later when they went to check on her, she was dead. They freaked out. They hid her body and I guess, disposed of it later. He did say that Ryan drove her car back, and Bo picked him up and that Ryan told her that the glove was his. One thing I did point out is, I made the comment to this person, I said, "One problem that I have with this story is that most of the time when a prisoner or someone who's in jail," which I guess they still call that an inmate, whatever, "Is transported anywhere, they have a guard with them."
I said, "Considering what he was arrested for, I doubt very seriously they were going to leave him alone with a female phlebotomist, or even a male, but especially a female." He'd have to be standing close by so I would imagine that any interaction he would have shut down quickly. This guy said, "I had the same question, and they said that the guard was at the door, and [censored name] one of the hospital workers and [censored name] pretty much whispering to Ryan.
Payne Lindsey: The information was interesting, but it's completely unverifiable. For all we know, Ryan Duke didn't even say that. It's one of those white rabbits I've been chasing since day one in this case. I set all this aside and focused on solid information obtained straight from the sources. One thing that I could never figure out in this case was where Bo and Ryan lived during the time that Tara went missing. It's easy to assume that based on all the stories you've heard, that Bo and Ryan lived on the pecan orchard. They didn't. Not only that, but I couldn't find it anywhere. Not a single friend of Bo and Ryan, or Brooke herself, could clarify where they lived. Why was that?
Even a search through property records turned up absolutely nothing. Brooke said that there were seven to eight people at their house on the night that Tara went missing. She said the guys were drinking and that eventually they all left, and that Bo was asleep when Ryan allegedly stole his truck and drove to Tara's house. Because none of these boys would ever talk to me, I cannot be certain who else was there that night, or any night for that matter. All I can do is go off the facts. Pictures from old MySpace accounts revealed very clearly who was in this friend circle. It was the same guys everywhere I looked. The more people I talked to on the outer circle of this friend group, the more confirmation I began to receive.
A few episodes back, I told you that I recently received threats and nasty emails from locals. This is true. A majority of this anger stemmed directly from having mentioned this group of friends on the podcast. Mind you, not by name but literally just the words, group of friends. The rest of the dots these people connected on their own. Just so we're clear, I'm not saying these guys did anything, or even knew anything for that matter. I've been told countless rumors and theories about nearly every person in this case, including this friend group. I refuse to broadcast anything without vetting it.
We've learned from the horse's mouth that a search was conducted on this pecan orchard just two months after Tara went missing, all based on a tip that Ryan Duke said at a party one night, that he killed Tara. Giving Bo and Ryan's friends the benefit of the doubt, let's say that only one person heard that and maybe that person alone went to law enforcement with the tip. It's probable, maybe even likely. Maybe he wasn't a close friend, or someone who didn't hang out that often, and just happened to be there that night. All these things are possible. Based on the limited information I have, I can't rule it in or out.
As I've poked around for the answer, I've been shut out repeatedly and harassed with nasty emails and messages. All of this seems so disproportionate. I'm not saying you did anything. What if Marcus Harper come out of the wood works in the very beginning, bombarding me with angry words before I'd even said his name? That would be a red flag, would it not? I'm telling you all this to give you some perspective. Though I always do my best to call things how I see it, I know that regardless of why anyone is doing anything in this case, this has been a highly emotional experience for everyone. Tara Grinstead's disappearance has haunted the town of Ocilla for over a decade. It's remained an open wound. When I came into the picture, in some ways, it's like I ripped off the bandaid. I completely understand why someone could view what I'm doing negatively, but I also know that one day, people will see clearly again, and look back on everything that's happened and learn from it.
Before I get too sidetracked, I want to bring you back to my main point. I have an interview with one of the friends in this circle, and I've had it for months. This person was very reluctant to meet, but he felt compelled to clear the air. I recorded this interview with his permission, but per his request, I will not be using his real voice. His name will remain anonymous. In this clip you're about to hear, his voice has been replaced by someone else, but my part of the conversation has remain the same. This is a verbatim copy of our real recorded conversation.
When did you first hear about what happened to Tara?
Friend of Ryan and Bo: You mean about her disappearance?
Payne Lindsey: About what happened to her.
Friend of Ryan and Bo: I got called, I think, 10 days before the press release, and checked my voicemail. It was a GBI agent asking ... He wanted to meet up with me and talk. I called him back and told him that was fine. I said whenever and as soon as he was ready, and we actually, we met in this room. They came out here that next morning and that's the first thing. I don't even think I could wait before they got in the door. I was like, "Can you all please tell me what this is about?" At first, when he said, "Well, it's got to do with a homicide investigation," I was ... Then he mentioned the Tara case. That was the day before a press release. From the moment I was interviewed by them, it really didn't start until the day after, I guess, when they announced that there was going to be a press release. All them rumors started flying and the names were coming up, and all that.
Payne Lindsey: Why'd they want to talk to you?
Friend of Ryan and Bo: Somebody else that they had interviewed had said that I supposedly knew something or I was at one of them parties, or where supposedly they were bragging about it. They were bragging but saying they knew what happened to her, and that I later went back and looked, and finally figured out the weekend the party supposedly happened. I was actually in Jacksonville, at the Georgia Florida game.
Payne Lindsey: Is this whole thing shock you, surprise you-
Friend of Ryan and Bo: Yeah, it was very shocking.
Payne Lindsey: How'd you feel when you learned?
Friend of Ryan and Bo: It's just, I don't know how to describe it. I mean, two guys that I once considered friends of mine, or still do, at least one of them. They're still considered a friend. I think maybe in the podcast or heard a couple different places, but Ryan, he's just not that type of person. Bo isn't either. I mean, well, they're different personalities, Bo is. I don't know. He's not, despite what people have heard, or what people say about him. He's not that person. I mean, he's not a crazy, psychopathic killer. I mean, it's just not. He's just not. I know him, and I know he ain't ... That, that ain't him.
Payne Lindsey: What could've driven them to do this, though?
Friend of Ryan and Bo: Like I said earlier, only sense I could make of it, only thing that makes sense to me, is that there's some sort of accident. I just, I just don't see either one of them doing that kind of harm on purpose. Never would've expected it, ever. I was completely shocked when their names were released. I mean, I was in the balcony at the press release. When they said Ryan's name, I was like, "There's no fucking way. I don't believe it." There's more to it. There's, I just ...
Payne Lindsey: You think there's more to it than Ryan and Bo?
Friend of Ryan and Bo: Not necessarily more people involved, but more to it than a burglary gone wrong, because that's bullshit. If that turns out to be true, I mean, I will be ... I will be shocked. Hell, I still may not even believe it, because I mean, that just, that's not them, and that does not make sense. Like I say, and like I did say, the only thing that, the only scenario that I've been able to think of that makes sense to me was there was some kind of accident gone wrong. One or the other, maybe both. We're hanging out with her one night, and something you know, some kind of accident happens.
Payne Lindsey: Okay, to make sense of it.
Friend of Ryan and Bo: Yeah, I'm ready for it all to be over with. I want the truth, but we'd love to know exactly what happened. Yeah, I'm ready for it all to be over with and I want the truth, but would love to know exactly what happened.
Payne Lindsey: Even six months after Ryan Duke's arrest, it still feels like we know little to nothing about him. We've all learned our fair share about Bo Dukes, mostly thanks to himself, but because Ryan lived a much more quiet life and can't troll the discussion boards from inside jail, he remains a mystery. I reached out several times to members of the Duke family but I never got a response. That is, until a few weeks ago. I exchanged a few messages on Facebook with Ryan's Mom. After about a week or so, she asked to do an interview, but under one condition, that Dusty Vassey comes with me. She arranged a day and time to meet with us, and she gave me her address. All I had to do now was get Dusty on board, which I knew he would be.
I talked to Ryan Duke's Mom yesterday.
Dusty Vassey: Yeah, okay.
Payne Lindsey: She said that she wants to meet me on Saturday at 1 o'clock, but she wants you to come too.
Dusty Vassey: Okay, I can do that.
Payne Lindsey: Okay, cool. I told her that you could but I wanted to verify. I figured that wouldn't not do that. Yes, I wanted to make sure that was cool. She's down to meet at their house, and she gave me the address.
Dusty Vassey: Okay.
Payne Lindsey: Dusty had gotten sick about a month ago. One day out of the blue, he woke up and his voice was almost entirely gone. He could barely speak. The Tara Grinstead investigation has been an emotional rollercoaster for everyone, and Dusty especially. He, too, is someone who's been reporting on this case on a regular basis. Dusty and I have had two vastly different experiences. I have, and always will be, an outsider of this community. Other than my Grandma, I have no family ties or close friends in the area.
Dusty lives here. Ocilla is his home. His approach and the way it's affected his daily life, is completely different than me. On the June 28th issue of the Ocilla Star, Dusty wrote an article titled, "I Lost My Voice." In my opinion, it's his best article yet. Dusty opens the article by saying, "I lost my voice. It's been gone nearly two weeks now, so worrying it may be permanent. Maybe that's a good thing, if it will stop me from being recorded, saying some of the things I said in last week's episode of Up and Vanished."
He goes on to say, "I reckon I lost my voice in more ways than one. The truth at any cost is not my motto, but many people have seemed to adopted that motto in the online community devoted to this case. It should not be looked at as an indictment of the podcast though. I think Payne has helped us understand this case that has baffled all of us for a very long time. I think there is more good the podcast may yet do. It's like if someone was fishing with dynamite. I respect that he catches all those fish. I enjoy the heck out of eating them. Personally, I prefer fishing with a cork, where the fish bite when they want to. I'm going to get in another boat."
Of all the people I've met throughout this podcast, no one has supported me more than Dusty Vassey. Over the past year, we've built a friendship, a real friendship. One that will live on for a lifetime after the podcast is over. He's one of the kindest human beings I've ever met, and he's one of the most tactful and well spoken journalists I've ever encountered. Dusty agreed to go with me for the interview with Ryan Duke's Mom. On the morning of, he messaged me with some frightening news. His condition had worsened overnight, and he had to get immediate medical treatment. With that being said, I want to take this moment to ask you to keep Dusty Vassey in your thoughts and prayers. This man embraced me from the moment I stepped foot in Irwin County. If it weren't for him, I don't think I could've made this podcast at all.
Ryan Duke lived in an area called Pleasure Lake, about 15 minutes outside downtown Ocilla. The lake itself is actually a swamp. In route to Pleasure Lake, within minutes of traveling down Tifton Highway, the terrain begins to change rapidly. I was nervous this time. I was going to do this alone.
Automated GPS: Starting route to Pleasure Lake.
Payne Lindsey: I arrived at a small house. I sat in the car for a few minutes as I gathered my thoughts. I had ran over the questions I wanted to ask her a dozen times, but in this moment, my mind was blank. I was greeted by Ryan's Mom, Karen, his younger brother James, and four dogs. Without the presence of Dusty, at first they were a little uneasy, but after a few minutes, we sat down to the table, we began to talk.
What do you want people out in the world to know about Ryan Duke and your family?
James Duke: That he's not the person that he's being portrayed to be. He's a kind, loving person. I think-
Karen Duke: They are very supportive of-
James Duke: I think he wants, he wants the truth, just like everybody else. He just is just stuck.
Payne Lindsey: Do you think we're going to know the truth on day?
James Duke: I hope. I really hope. Whether it's for better or worse. I hope we find out what happened.
Karen Duke: He was, from what I saw, he'd probably know more about that. He was very kind, and a little bit on the romantic side. Flowers and-
James Duke: Yeah he's, he was very, very-
Karen Duke: Write poetry.
James Duke: Romantic. The few times I did see him with his girl, a lot of times he'd have candles made up around the room. The only girl that I seen him break up with, that affected him, that ... I really want to say it tore him up, but he was down about it. It upset him. He was sad. Just about like a normal break up. You don't want to see anything that reminds you of the person-
Payne Lindsey: Sure.
James Duke: Any time you do, you see something that reminds you of them, that ... It makes you sad. That's what it seemed like, he just seemed sad.
Karen Duke: He wasn't much of a talker about stuff like that. When he was going through something he'd want to be alone.
Payne Lindsey: You told me one time that you have to understand Ryan to know the way he is. You said that he's just a sad person. Can you elaborate on that a little?
Karen Duke: What I meant by that is I attribute it to the alcohol and substance abuse, because when you're depressed, and you do that, and it just brings you even further down. He did and still does at times, struggle with depression, and anxiety, and panic attacks. He can't go out and be around a lot of people because he literally will have a panic attack.
Payne Lindsey: Really? Was he always like that, or did that just develop over time?
Karen Duke: It just developed over time. He was pretty happy in high school. I mean-
James Duke: Yeah, happy after high school.
Karen Duke: I mean, he was popular. He had a lot of friends. I can't believe that this one night that he would break into her house and kill her, and he's never done any ... It just doesn't make any sense at all. He's just not that type of person, but they're trying to tell me that he just decides he's going to break in, to of all people, a school teacher's house. Ryan worked. Bo was the one that didn't work. He didn't have to work. I just can't believe that this one night he decides that he's going to do this. That's ridiculous. It makes no sense. No sense to me at all.
Payne Lindsey: Take me back to when this all started, about six months ago, whenever GBI called. Just break down how that happened from your perspective.
Karen Duke: They came out here, and pulled up in the yard over there. When I realized something was going on, of course I walked out. They really didn't have much to say to me, they said they would come and talk to me after they talked to Ryan.
Payne Lindsey: This is GBI you're talking about?
Karen Duke: Yeah. They wanted him to come to the police station because they said they had some questions for him. I told them, he doesn't have a license, so I would bring him up there tomorrow. Which was what? On a Wednesday. I took him up there, and-
Payne Lindsey: The tomorrow was a Wednesday?
Karen Duke: Yeah.
Payne Lindsey: This is two days before the press conference?
Karen Duke: Yeah.
James Duke: They came on Tuesday, and then we took him up there on Wednesday.
Karen Duke: Yeah. I mean, they just said they had a few questions for him, it wouldn't take very long. They came out, we was waiting in the lobby. Came out and got him. Said, won't take but a minute, he'll be right back. It didn't take but a minute. They came back in about, what was it? 20, 25 minutes.
James Duke: I'd just walked in the door when they came out and said that they were going to arrest him for Tara's murder. Wouldn't give us no reason why. Just for us to keep our mouth shut, and to try to avoid any media, and let them do their job. That's what we've done.
Karen Duke: That was that. That's really how-
James Duke: We sat back and you know-
Karen Duke: It was very confusing.
Payne Lindsey: How long was GBI out here that first day?
Karen Duke: About 15 minutes.
Payne Lindsey: Then y'all had agreed that, we'll take Ryan up there at 2 o'clock tomorrow.
Karen Duke: Yeah, yeah.
Payne Lindsey: When the GBI left, you were with Ryan, what'd you ask him? What'd y'all talk about? Were you saying, "Hey what was that about?"
Karen Duke: Yeah, of course I asked him what it was about. He said they wanted to ask him some questions about Tara. I was like, "Well, why? Why do they want to ask you something?" He said he didn't know. I said, "Well they probably think you've heard something," like everybody has heard something over the years. That's what we figured it was. I asked him one simple question, I asked him, "Did you kill her?" He said, "No Ma'am. I did not." No, I did ask him, I said, "Do you know who did?" He said, "No." That was good enough for me.
Payne Lindsey: You think he was talking truthfully when he told you that.
Karen Duke: Yeah. I absolutely do. I know he was scared. I mean, I was scared. We're just normal people, you know? GBI's coming out here? It was just so out of the blue.
Payne Lindsey: Do you remember that weekend that is in question, back in '05, or anywhere around that time?
James Duke: The only thing I was in Tara's class the day she went missing. Come to school that morning, everybody was freaking out because she wasn't there. Nobody had heard from her. As far as the weekend goes, and what I did, I have no clue. I know I played football, because I probably had a football game that night. The next night, I normally hung out with my friends, and I didn't really see Ryan a whole lot on the weekends unless I didn't have nothing to do, or he invited me over for a football game or something like that. I was normally with my friends. Like I said, I woke up the day, or that Monday, went to school, and she didn't show up. Around that time frame, that's pretty much the only thing that I can remember.
Payne Lindsey: Where did Bo and Ryan live at that time?
Karen Duke: In that-
James Duke: Trailer-
Karen Duke: The house-
James Duke: That they were in-
Karen Duke: The trailer was Fred's. Remember? Fred and Steven and Ryan lived.
James Duke: [crosstalk]
Karen Duke: Yeah. Fred had to move because he got that job offer, somewhere, if I-
James Duke: I don't know exactly when they moved to that house, but-
Karen Duke: If I'm not mistaken-
James Duke: Before they lived there, they lived in a trailer almost outside of Fitzgerald, not quite outside of Fitzgerald.
Karen Duke: It's catty-corner of the hospital.
Payne Lindsey: Where was that house at?
James Duke: It was by the gas station.
Karen Duke: It was, I don't know.
Payne Lindsey: What's the gas station called?
Karen Duke: Taylor.
James Duke: Taylor's I think.
Karen Duke: Yeah, it's Taylor's, but the-
James Duke: That's how I know it.
Karen Duke: Street's on, it's on Merrimack. The house has been torn down.
Payne Lindsey: Was Ryan a football fan?
Karen Duke: Oh, yeah.
James Duke: Still is.
Karen Duke: What's his favorite teams?
James Duke: As far as I know, Bulldogs and Fountains.
Payne Lindsey: Yeah. You said it's Georgia.
James Duke: Yeah, I heard that he could've blacked out and something happened, and then woke up the next day, and Bo's telling him what he'd done. "Hey man you've done this, and I help you do this, and we'll be good." Anybody who's ever black out before, has no way of knowing what you done. Like I said, he blacked out plenty of times, fairly regular.
Karen Duke: Yeah.
James Duke: I won't say all the time, but if he got on it hard, more than likely he would. Who knows what they'd do, other than what they're being told, when you black out.
Payne Lindsey: Right.
James Duke: Hopefully your best friend will tell you what you did. Hopefully.
Payne Lindsey: How do you feel about the loss of Tara and what may have happened to this woman outside of everything else that you guys are dealing with?
James Duke: It's tragic.
Karen Duke: It really is.
James Duke: I mean, this, it's unbelievable. Really, what happened. Like I said, I was in her class when all that happened and it affected a lot of my friends, it affected me because she was my teacher. I knew her pretty well. I think I was in 10th grade at the time. I'd known her my whole ninth grade year and talked to her, and then I was in her class my 10th grade year. It's devastating to me, it still is. I can't for the life of me, imagine what her family is going through. We're going through a lot, of course, but they're ... I can't imagine what they might be feeling.
Karen Duke: One of the things that I wrote Miss Connie a letter. One of the things I said in that was I feel like I have walked into your nightmare that you've been living for over 11 years now. Now I'm right in the middle of it. I don't know how she deals with it. I think with a lot of this stuff that Bo was saying that people actually forget that Tara was the victim.
James Duke: That's somebody's baby.
Karen Duke: Let's not make any more victims out of this. It's bad enough already. That's where the truth comes in. That family needs ... They deserve the truth.
Yeah, they do.
Payne Lindsey: Even if your son was involved somehow?
James Duke: Yes.
Karen Duke: Yeah.
James Duke: I feel like if Ryan had his involvement, whatever it may be, he needs to be punished. Definitely, definitely, most definitely. If he had any involvement whatsoever then he needs to be held accountable for it.
Karen Duke: I think everybody should.
James Duke: Yeah.
Karen Duke: Anybody, anybody that's involved in it.
Payne Lindsey: What do you want to happen next?
Karen Duke: What do I want to happen? I want somebody to tell the truth. I want some closure.
Payne Lindsey: For any of Tara's family or friends that would be listening, what would want them to know about your family and feelings about everything?
Karen Duke: I want them to know that I'm very sorry for what happened to Tara. I really am. I know they probably don't want to hear that I don't believe Ryan did it, because they're on the other end of that. They got the GBI going, "Yeah, we got him." I wouldn't know what to say to them about that, other than just, I don't believe my son did it. I just don't believe it. I hope that some way, somehow, the truth will come out for everybody. For everybody's sake, and finally put this to rest. It's been too long, it's been too long.
James Duke: Yeah, I do too, like I said, if Ryan had any involvement, then he needs to be held accountable. As far as Tara's family goes, like I said, I truly cannot imagine what they've had to go through. I wouldn't dream of that happening to anybody. I'm really sorry that they've had to deal with this. I'm even more sorry if Ryan had anything to do with it.
Karen Duke: I mean, I agree with James. I mean, if Ryan had anything to do with it, yeah, he needs to pay for that.
Payne Lindsey: How was Ryan's, his health ... I heard something that he had renal failure or something like that. Is any of that true? Can you tell me about that a little bit? His health conditions and how it probably was and how he's doing now? I saw he was limping in the court room that day.
Karen Duke: He's got the veins in his legs collapsed. Then they got him, blew back up I guess you'd call it. There was nerve damage done to his feet. He's got permanent nerve damage. That's why he's limping, he's in pain.
Payne Lindsey: What caused that?
Karen Duke: I don't know. They never did say, but he had-
James Duke: Poor circulation. He wasn't getting enough circulation in his legs. The veins eventually just collapsed because there wasn't no blood running through them, just from not being active.
Karen Duke: He had gone in, his organ failure, his organs were shutting down. They transferred him to Douglas. He stayed in ICU for what?
James Duke: 10 months.
Karen Duke: No, it wasn't that long.
James Duke: He was in there on dialysis too.
Karen Duke: Oh, but he was on-
Payne Lindsey: He was on what?
Karen Duke: He was on dialysis for about four months, four or five.
James Duke: In the hospital he was on that dialysis machine close to 24/7.
Karen Duke: Yeah, and then we had to go-
James Duke: Then he finally got his organs stable
Karen Duke: Twice a week. Yeah, they finally got it. He responded to what they told him then that he was going to have to stop drinking. He was going to die.
James Duke: His liver and both of his kidneys were shutting down, in Ocilla, and that's why they sent him to Douglas. Once they got his liver and his kidneys back going, he was on dialysis in the hospital for three weeks, a month.
Payne Lindsey: How's his health now? Has it declined, or has stayed the same?
James Duke: It's gotten better and it's leveled off.
Karen Duke: He's got high blood pressure.
Payne Lindsey: Before he was arrested, how was his health that day?
James Duke: He constantly suffered from chronic pain just from his feet and not having that circulation like he should.
Karen Duke: He's got that nerve damage, it's constant.
James Duke: Like she said, he's got high blood pressure. His liver and his kidneys, they were-
Karen Duke: he still has to be-
James Duke: They're better-
Karen Duke: Careful.
James Duke: Now, but they're not nearly as good as what they should be. He's done pretty good at taking care of his self for the most part, after all that stuff happened. After all this, his liver and his kidneys shut down, and he realized that he had to stop drinking. He did. He started taking his medicine like he should. As far as health wise, he was in a lot better health than what he was, as far as when they picked him up.
Payne Lindsey: Right, well that's good.
Karen Duke: We love Ryan. We don't believe he did this, and we're going to support him. We're behind him 100 percent.
James Duke: We're also behind Tara's family, too. We stand with them just as much as we stand with Ryan. If he had something to do with it, then we want him punished, just like they do. We also want justice for Tara. Whoever done this to be brought to justice. Just so they know exactly what happened. That's what it all boils down to, is that they get closure, and that this is over for them. That they got the right man, men, whoever's involved. We all want the same thing. If Ryan knows something, then yeah, he should come forward and say so. In the same sense, he's got to be held for what he done.
Payne Lindsey: Of the many questions I had about Ryan, some of them were answered. One of them being where Ryan and Bo lived at the time, in the little house across the street from a gas station, called Taylor's. Like the rest of us, Ryan Duke's family seemed to have little to no inclination of how long this might take. It's been six months since Ryan was arrested, but a trial or plea seemed nowhere in sight. I asked Philip Holloway for his thoughts on this and the future of this case. What's going to happen next? More importantly, when?
Philip Holloway: The first thing that I want to think of, and I want everybody to remember, and hopefully they will, is that an innocent person lost her life. She lost her life in the most senseless sort of a way. For, undoubtedly, a senseless reason. When we first learned of the arrest of Ryan Duke in connection with Tara's murder, I would've bet my last dollar that there was not going to be a trial in the case, that certainly some kind of a plea deal would be reached, and some hasty resolution of this would take place in a court room. The cased would be closed and everybody could claim victory. As we've learned more about the case, I'm not quite as certain I was in the beginning that there will be a swift plea deal in this case. I guess it's 50/50 with me as to whether or not there actually will be a trial. I'm leaning more and more that way the more I think about the case and the more I think about what we've learned.
Really, it's not going to be in a big hurry to have a trial, because there's only three possible sentences. One is the death penalty. The next worse is life without parole, and the only other remaining possible penalty for someone convicted of murder is life in prison with the possibility of parole. Unless there's some sort of a really sweet deal that Ryan's offered, it makes sense to try to do everything they can from the defense side to protect his rights, which include a right to a trial, and to avoid a conviction. That's what the defense's job is. Every member of society has an interest in seeing that justice is not delayed. Primarily the right to a speedy trial belongs to the accused. Just like any other right, this right can be waived. I hope that the GBI didn't blow it back in 2005, and let the statute of limitations start to run as pertains to the state of Georgia versus Bo Dukes.
I think this case is a textbook example that highlights the problems that exist in the criminal justice system. All too often the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Evil really does exist in this world. Monsters are real.
Payne Lindsey: Up and Vanished changed my life. It's affected the lives of hundreds of people. It's brought truth, it's exposed secrets, and most of all, it's shared with the world the story of an incredible person named Tara Grinstead. It's hard to find the good in a story like this, but I think that underneath all the lies, deceit, and the heinous taking of someone's life, there's something that we can all learn from this. Tara Grinstead's disappearance had an astounding ripple effect, touching the lives of people all across the world. She was a beautiful person whose life and dreams were taken. The decade of searching for truth revealed many dark secrets about the town she lived in and forced people, including myself, to look in the mirror.
I want to thank all those who've listened to Tara Grinstead's story. I'm honored to have had the privilege to share it with you. May Tara Grinstead rest in peace. May those responsible face the consequences. May the Grinstead family heal. May this community in south Georgia become whole again. As tough as it is, it's time to let the justice system run its course, and for all the healing to begin.
Before I conclude this season, I want to share one more thing with you. Not too long ago, I met a man in a parking lot about an hour outside of Ocilla. We spoke for nearly four hours that night. He has no direct connection to Tara, the accused killers, or anyone else. But he had a story that he was compelled to tell me. Given his own position and his job in the community, he asked that I keep him completely anonymous. In the call I'm about to play you, his voice has been changed, but the words are exactly what he told me.
Source 2: I had a relative who's since passed away, that used to go to the White Horse in Fitzgerald on a regular basis. He and I both are friends with the guy that played in a band down there. They were like the house band, they were playing there not just every other weekend, or once a month, but they were literally playing there every week. That's part of my brother's social life, he was there every time they played. He would just go there. My relative was one of these guys who's never met a stranger, who feels like his point, his purpose in life was to help other people. If he saw somebody that needed a dime, he'd give them a dime. If he saw somebody that needed a ride, or whatever, he would help them. He was very outgoing with that type of thing. He trusted people and was just a giving type person.
He had been in the White Horse and was leaving, and went out and got in his vehicle. He said that he looked across the parking lot, and I don't know if you've ever been to the White Horse and know where the White Horse is. The parking lot runs east and west there. He went to his vehicle, got in his vehicle, was leaving, getting to pull through and he saw somebody in the parking lot with the hood up on their vehicle. Him being the type of person he is, he drives over and says, "Hey, you need some help?" He said this kid, he called him a kid, he said this kid is in the truck, and had sawed on it trying to crank it, until he had killed the battery. Battery was clicking at this point. He said the guy was, "Yeah, my truck's torn up. I need a jump, somebody jump me off."
My brother said, "Well, I got jumper cables, I'll jump you off." He pulled the nose of the vehicle up and got out, and raised his hood. Said the guy got out of his vehicle and was walking around, he could notice him stumbling real bad, wobbling. He was like, "Okay." The guy comes around and they raised their hoods, and my brother's making small talk with him. The guy's not really focusing on him, like, okay you're making a connection. Obviously he was impaired in some way. My brother said, "Okay, you hook your jumper cables up, and I'll hook mine up." It was a fair deal. It's what people do. The guy couldn't get, for some reason, seemed like he couldn't get either his hand on the jumper cable, or couldn't squeeze the jumper cable, or get it on the jumper, on the post on the battery. The thought that went through my brother's head was that this guy is messed up and does not need to be driving, because the guy was bumbling around, stumbling around. He just didn't know what condition the guy was in. I've told you he was my brother, now I've said a relative earlier, but it was my brother.
Anyway the guy gets in. He tells him, "Go ahead and get into your vehicle and try cranking." My brother purposefully took his jumper cable off, where it wouldn't crank, because he didn't want this guy getting in the road. He said, "If I jump this guy off in this vehicle, in this condition he's in, and he goes out and kills somebody, I helped." The guy gets in, click, click, click, click, click, click. Nothing happens. Long story short, he tells the guy, he says, "I'll tell you what, your vehicle's not running." He said, "You live around here?" He said he mumbled something and my brother said, "Well is there somewhere I can take you, or you can come back and get your vehicle tomorrow or some other time?" The guy said, "Yeah, you could carry me." My brother didn't remember the names or whoever this was, or where he was supposed to be taking him. My brother said, "Fine, lock your vehicle up, make sure you got everything, and I'll carry you there."
The kid gets in the vehicle with him. When they're pulling out of the parking lot, my brother was making small talk with him. They talk about football. That's how I made it relevant to how I remembered when it was, because my brother, in telling the story, he and I had been talking about football. This was in 2005, the best I can nail it down, during the holidays when he and I had this conversation. Was because he related it to Florida beating Georgia. He said, "Oh, yeah, let me tell you about this kid I met that was a Bulldog fan." Anyways, part of that was because the kid was a Bulldog fan and because Florida had beaten Georgia. He was cussing and carrying on, because Florida had beat Georgia. In going, my brother carried this guy. Every once in a while he would just keep silent, and he'd drop out. His head would drop. My brother, he said he was sleepy or totaled out drunk, or high as a kite. Something got him impaired.
My brother took this opportunity in pulling over, to give him parting words of wisdom by saying, "You don't need to be getting drunk. You don't need to be out on the road. Something bad could happen." Said the kid looked up at him and said, "Yeah, when I get tore up I pass out, and one time," he said, "Someone told me I killed someone." He didn't say, "I passed out and I killed somebody." He said, "Someone told me that I killed someone." Now relating that to be any person in particular, that would have ever been in the parking lot at the White Horse Saloon, it could've been one of 3,000 people. No way of knowing and pinning it down.
I may be pulling that conclusion out of thin air there, because my brother's not here to retell it, or verify it, or clarify it, or anything. I even went so far as to ask a friend that played there in the band, I said, "Did my brother ever tell you the story about the kid in the parking lot?" He said, "Maybe he did, I can't really remember. Gosh it's been 11 years ago." It's been 11 years. My brother mentioned it two or three times. Probably three times in the years out of that, he and I would be sitting around talking, he would retell it. He said that giving the guy some parting words of wisdom, saying, "You don't need to be out drinking. You don't need to be out at night driving drunk. You need to get somebody else to drive you," that's when the guy said, "Yes, when I get drunk I pass out, and I don't remember, I don't remember what I did." He didn't say, "I passed out and I killed somebody," he said, "Someone told me that I killed someone."
Payne Lindsey: I asked him where his brother dropped the man off that night.
Source 2: There at the corner of Taylor's. It was right there where Taylor's is.
Tara voice actor: Every story has an ending. Sometimes they're puzzling or even unsatisfying, but in real life, you can't control the narrative. Sometimes you only get bits and pieces of the truth. In my story, I hope that one day we get the whole truth.
Payne Lindsey: Hello?
Maurice Godwin: Hey Payne, Dr. Godwin here.
Payne Lindsey: Hey, what's up, man?
Maurice Godwin: I've been thinking. We did some really good work on Tara's case. There's another case I had in mind. I've been looking to it for years. Maybe you and I should take a look into it.
Payne Lindsey: The Up and Vanished theme song is called Ophelia, performed by Ezza Rose. Up and Vanished is produced and edited by me, Payne Lindsey, and executive produced by myself and Donald Albright. Additional production by Mason Lindsey and Meredith Stedman. Special thanks to Dr. Maurice Godwin, and to all the Up and Vanished contributors, including Dusty Vassey, Philip Holloway, Ashleigh Merchant, Colin Miller, Mayor Matt Seale, Rob Ricotta, the people of Ocilla and Irwin County, and of course, my Grandma.