Original Air Date 12.19.2016
In This Episode
Payne and Maurice examine some emails sent by Tara in the weeks before she disappeared, focusing on her breakup with Marcus Harper and her emotional state of mind. Payne interviews Jim Hickey a friend of school superintendent Troy Davis who dated Tara a couple times and received a text from her the night she disappeared. We also take another look at that latex glove and whether it was blue or white, wondering if it could have been swapped out at any point in the investigation.
People in this Episode
Chief, Ocilla Police Dept.
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
Latex Glove #2
Maurice: You see, I've got those emails and ... See, the thing is that it shows her mental state. I mean, she was emotionally worse than a teenager.
Marcus and them told her they didn't want any more contact with her and stuff. This is in the email, too. Written by her. She found out about the 18 year old girl he was dating. She said that he'd looked me in the eyes and said three times, "It's over. It's over. It's over."
Intro: Ten years ago today, marked the last time anybody reported seeing or talking to Tara Grinstead.
Officially, people are calling this a missing persons case. [crosstalk 00:01:22]
An $80,000 reward is being offered for information.
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.
Several episodes back, I read some emails that Tara sent just a few days before she disappeared. That was only one of them. I can't reveal my source for these emails, but I can assure you, they're 100% real. The first one I'm going to share today is from October 6, 2005, from Tara to Nancy, Marcus Harper's mom.
Tara voice actor: Marcus' voice was strong and confidant when he told me it was over. That hurt, because I knew he meant what he said. He did not do it out of frustration or argument. He said it because he knew that is how he felt. He's felt that way for a while by the sound of his voice, because he never even hesitated to tell me. He was able to speak and tell me this with full confidence.
When I asked him again, "Is it over?", he said, "Yes!"
When I said, "Will we never be together again?", he said "Yes!"
I said, "Please don't do this!"
He said, "Tara, it's over."
And that is the last I heard. What terrible words left to echo in my mind from the one true love I have. It's hard. I could never and have never said it was over. Never. I never let him go, ever.
Payne Lindsey: This next email is from Tara to her step-mom, Connie, on September 27, 2005.
Tara voice actor: To think that a 30 year old like him would want to date or go out with a girl who just turned 18 is over me. Of course, I know he and Nancy can control an 18 year old, unlike me. He was shocked when I said I knew who she was. I knew her name; I knew all about her. But no one knows I know this info. I have my ways of finding out stuff.
Payne Lindsey: This next one is from Tara to her step-mom again on October 20, 2005, just two days before she went missing. This was her very last contact with Tara.
Tara voice actor: He said he was seeing someone else. He told me it was over three times, looking me in the eye, and his new flame, from what I heard, is an 18 year old girl who graduated in 2005!
Payne Lindsey: She's talking about an 18 year old girl Marcus started dating after they broke up. I called to discuss these emails with Maurice, but we decided to meet in person. We met at a hotel not far from his house and the first question I asked him was about that 18 year old girl.
Maurice: She had teacher friends in Tifton and those teacher friends had taught this girl, who graduated in '05. And they informed her about this individual.
Payne Lindsey: Do you think this is a good enough reason for motive? Because it seems like she's kind of going behind Marcus' back to dig out this information. Does this play a role to you at all in this thing?
Maurice: She said that he was shocked when she told him that. He was shocked. I think you have to take these emails cumulative, together. You can dissect each line, whatever. But here's the thing, a lot of people who have problems transfer the issues they had as a child into adulthood and, of course, the behaviors are different in adulthood, but it's the fear of rejection, the fear of abandonment. Your whole being, your whole thinking, your whole psychological makeup ... you lose everything and your thinking is irrational. And she confirms that she had never acted like that before. So at some level, and I can't say this because I've never examined her or anything like this, but based on what we see here, the attachment to him was more than just an attachment of a relationship. I think it shored up some type of feelings that she may have had as a child, and then, when you abandon that as an adult, fear is induced and you abandon that person as if they were a child.
Payne Lindsey: And what role do you think that plays in this case?
Maurice: The role that it plays in this case is irrational behavior. Seeking out to find out about this girl.
Payne Lindsey: This last email I'm going to share with you is from Tara to her step-mom again, on September 27, 2005.
Tara voice actor: I've not expressed any of this to anyone. No one knows what I know. Please keep this between us. You'd be shocked if you knew the things that Nancy and Marcus said about me. You and Daddy would be downright angry to know the kinds of things they said about me, the person I am in my character. I'm telling you, it's awful and extremely painful to know the exact words between the two about me. Actually, I think it's been one of the most painful things I've ever had to deal with. They're both working together to obtain what they think is good, but it's the root of evil, greed, and envy. Their disguise does not fool me and they can use all their energy to fool people and present themselves as something that they're not. Time will be the deciding factor. They can't get away with it forever, and when they fall, it will be a very hard fall. So much that one or both of them may never get back up on their feet. I don't need to be involved in that, because I plan to stand firm and keep on walking. I won't look back either to wait for their fall or watch their fall. When it happens, I'll just be thankful I got out in time.
Payne Lindsey: What is she talking about?
Maurice: I don't think that she ... I personally don't know.
Payne Lindsey: Yeah, it seems like she ... 'Cause she kind of goes on about it ...
Maurice: So obviously, it was getting at her reputation, that type of thing. See, one thing you have to understand, Tara originally broke up with him. See, he got a letter when he was in Iraq. And he let one of his read it to see if he was reading it right. He thought he was, so he said he thought it was good for them to go on their separate ways. Then she decided that she'd made a mistake ... because she didn't want to live the Army life, the military life. Then she made a mistake. That summer, end of the summer of '05, they went to Florida together. It just wasn't all Tara. Marcus plays some of the role in her behavior toward him, too. There's no doubt about that. He was all around her all the time. I'm talking about, not literally all around her, but I don't think he did anything to discourage her all that much. May have sent is as a ego thing.
Payne Lindsey: Or ... She has this really strong vengeance, it seems like, against Marcus and his mom.
Maurice: Yeah. I just think that she felt a lot that they were one and the same. That they were both against her.
Payne Lindsey: Maybe that Marcus' mom was promoting them not being together.
Maurice: No doubt.
Payne Lindsey: So Tara felt like Marcus' mother was in the way of Marcus.
Maurice: Oh ... That she ruled him. She was clinging onto the last straw to try to keep some type of link to Marcus, and it was through his mama.
Payne Lindsey: I've tried not to overanalyze what Tara was saying in her emails, but it was pretty hard not to. Reading what she was saying just days before she vanished is bizarre. Whatever happened to her, it seemed like she wasn't in her right state of mind. All this just seemed too coincidental. I felt certain it was related to her disappearance.
At the end of the last episode, I was searching for other possible men in Tara's life. I stumbled upon the name Jim Hickey. I had no clue who this was, or if this was even a real person. So I found who I thought was him on Facebook and shot him a message. It turns out he did know Tara and he agreed to talk to me. Just a fair warning about this phone call I'm about to play: it's pretty long. But I feel like it's important, so stick in there.
Jim Hickey: I didn't know her all that well. I was introduced to her by the superintendent over Irwin County at the time, Troy Davis, and we went out one time in Atlanta, and when I was going through town one time, we went and had lunch. But we'd periodically text or email or chat on the phone occasionally, but I was in A tlanta and she was in south Georgia, so it was ...
Payne Lindsey: Were you down there for your job? Is that why you were there?
Jim Hickey: Yeah, I worked in educational sales, [inaudible 00:11:00] sales, and a friend of mine had mentioned her to me, and we went down and did a presentation at the elementary school. I had said something to Troy about trying to introduce me to her, which he did, and again that was two ... The two times that we were together were a result of that.
Payne Lindsey: Around what time was that? Was that in the month of October?
Jim Hickey: Gosh, I wouldn't even remember. That's been 11, 12 years ago. But it was before, obviously, before she disappeared.
Payne Lindsey: Was it in the year of 2005? Or was it the year before?
Jim Hickey: Let's see ... What did she ... It would have been probably ... If I had to remember off the top of my head, I would say probably...14 June. It would have probably been in '05. Maybe. Then again, I'm going off memory. It could have possibly been '04, because she was a teacher and they did a conference down in St. Thomas, actually, and I just can't remember whether it was the one that year or the one the previous year. She came up to visit a friend of hers in Atlanta one time who I think she knew from the pageants, and she was singing at an Irish bar over on Brookhaven, so we met up that night.
Payne Lindsey: How many times did y'all hang out, do you think?
Jim Hickey: That one time and then, like I said, one other time I came through Ocilla and we went to lunch over in Fitzgerald.
Payne Lindsey: Did you ever go to her house or anything?
Jim Hickey: Yes. I met her neighbors. There was also a guy that owned a drug store down there who was a big Georgia fan. I played football with Georgia back in the '80s. And in fact, the night that she went missing, I was actually up at the Georgia/Arkansas game in Athens. We were up in one of the sky boxes. When they started calling us up, I was low on the totem pole, but because I had had interaction with her, of course ... Anybody who had had interaction with her at all was on the list.
Payne Lindsey: Did the GBI contact you and interview you?
Jim Hickey: Yes. Yeah.
Payne Lindsey: Did they tell you why they reached out to you?
Jim Hickey: She had text messaged me the night she disappeared. I got a text message from her that had said, "I'm cold." I was just like, "Okay. What is that supposed to mean?" But I was busy hanging out with people and so forth. It was during the game, and I think that was a night game if I remember correctly ... I could be wrong ... When Georgia played Arkansas, I think it was a night game. I had a game-day condo at the time and I had had a little bit too much to drink that night, so I didn't end up leaving Athens till about, I don't know, six or seven the next day because it was my condo. I could sleep in. I called her the next day on my way back to Atlanta and I left a message on her voicemail. So that was the curious thing to me, when the whole thing went down, it was how long it took for me to hear from the GBI, and I think the only reason for that is, like I said, I was not high on the totem pole.
Payne Lindsey: Right. So she said, "I'm cold." ...
Jim Hickey: Yeah, what had happened was she was at Troy Davis' house. He actually walked her down the steps at 11:00 that night. They were watching the Georgia game over at his house. That was ... They kind of did on a regular basis because he's a big Georgia fan and he'd always have people over and cook out, so forth ... And he walked her down the steps at 11:00 and nobody's seen her since.
One of the reasons why he encouraged her to meet me was to get her out of this small town mentality, to make her realize there was a world outside of Ocilla, Georgia. And I think that she was bitching to him that I was not following up with her and he said, "Well, why don't you send him a text that you're cold and you need him to come warm you up?" And she of course said, "I'm not going to send him that."
Payne Lindsey: But she did.
Jim Hickey: Hang with me a sec. I'm trying to ... My GPS is on my phone, so I'm trying to do two things at one time. Yeah, she was complaining that I wasn't following up with her and he was jokingly saying, "Why don't you tell him you're cold and need him to come warm you up?" And she said, "Well, I'm not going to send him that." So what I got was the "I'm cold." Instead of the whole comment.
Payne Lindsey: Huh. And that was during the game.
Jim Hickey: Correct. It probably would have been in that time frame between eight and whenever he walked her out of there. I mean, I remember looking at my phone while I was up in the box, but again, that was 11, 12 years ago. I wouldn't remember exact time. She did talk about her family and she didn't drink. I think she had a history of alcoholism in her family. I think that was always a concern of hers, and anything I know about her personal life really was what stuff that came out during the aftermath, because I guess it turns out she was having an affair with some cop up in Perry, and there may have been a couple other guys. And who know how much any of that was true?
Payne Lindsey: Did she ever mention Marcus Harper to you at all?
Jim Hickey: Not anything extensive. I think he was a typical guy who's come back from the military. He seemed to be very controlling and so-forth. So, yeah, I didn't know anything about that particular relationship. But there was something about her that was a little off to me.
Payne Lindsey: What do you mean?
Jim Hickey: Just, her whole thing with her family and ... I don't know. I couldn't put a finger on it, but it was ... It made me ... not really want to pursue anything with her. She was really committed to her kids at that school, so she always had stuff going on on Friday nights, and I always traveled a lot for work, so I wasn't going to travel down there for one night. And she made some comment to me about her parents talking to her about alcohol, but never ... they never talked to her about sex, so it seemed like that was maybe a big deal to her. So maybe that's what the relationships were with this guy and the other stuff, and maybe her relationship with Marcus. But again, that's all speculation on my part because she never really talked about it.
The whole came as a shock to me. In fact, I called her and left a message on Sunday, and my understanding is that cop from Perry had left like 29 messages on her phone. Which shows a level of craziness in my opinion. But I got a call Monday morning. I was on my way to a meeting over in Carrolton with the superintendent of schools over there and Troy called me that morning and ... Troy was a kind of no bullshit guy. For him to be calling me in the morning, I knew something ... I immediately felt kind of ... Because his first question was, "Have you seen or heard from Tara?" And I'm like, "Okay, he's not calling me up to ask me how the weather's doing."
And I'm like, "No." And he goes, "Well, she didn't show up at work this morning." And I'm like, "Okay, that's not good." And then I get a call while I'm in my meeting from her phone.
Payne Lindsey: Really?
Jim Hickey: So my immediate thought is, "Okay. Everything's okay." But it was her friend calling me on her phone.
Payne Lindsey: Oh, wow.
Jim Hickey: Yeah.
Payne Lindsey: Which friend called you?
Jim Hickey: I wouldn't even remember.
Payne Lindsey: Did you talk to her or you just didn't answer the phone?
Jim Hickey: No, I answered ... Well, no. I didn't answer the phone. She had left a message. I think I did call her back, though.
Payne Lindsey: Okay.
Jim Hickey: Because they were searching all angles at that point.
Payne Lindsey: And that was Monday morning?
Jim Hickey: Correct. Monday afternoon.
Payne Lindsey: So the GBI talked to you. Did they seem like they were just checking you off the list or did they ...
Jim Hickey: Correct. They were definitely just checking me off the list. My friend's dad is an attorney down in Fitzgerald, and he represented the DNR guy, and the GBI guy had to come meet with him about another case, a murder case that they had had in south Georgia, and when they got done talking about that, my friend started chatting with him about this case and he said, "Hey, I heard you met a friend of mine." And the guy said, "Oh, really? Who?" And he said, "Jim Hickey." And the guy says, "Oh, yeah." And he made the comment that I was not high on the priority list. Any guy who had any interaction with her whatsoever, including Troy who, he walked her out of the house that night ... everybody had to be interviewed. You know, the crazy thing is, never ever in my life could I have imagined that I would have had to been interviewed by GBI.
Payne Lindsey: Have you been to Ocilla since then?
Jim Hickey: I have actually, because I had some meetings with the new superintendent down there. No longer in that industry and business. I've gotten out of it. I went back to in a couple times and, interestingly, when I went by ... I went through there one time and I went by to see the guy that I told you that I met at the drugstore and he acted really weird.
Payne Lindsey: Who was the drugstore guy?
Jim Hickey: I wouldn't have remembered his name. All I remember about him was he was a big Georgia fan and he had this special made car that he had. There was two drug stores downtown and I think his has subsequently closed. He had met me with her because she had brought me in to introduce to him. So I was like, "Hey, remember me?" And it was almost like he was acting like he didn't know who I was, which I found very strange.
Payne Lindsey: Did he work at the drug store?
Jim Hickey: He owned it.
Payne Lindsey: How old was he?
Jim Hickey: I would say he was probably in his sixties, maybe fifties. Late fifties, early sixties maybe. First of all, the fact that I played at Georgia and he's a Georgia fan. I would have thought I would have got some "Hey, good to see you." Or "Hey, can you believe what happened to Tara?" Or some acknowledgement that he knew me through her and "Hey, look what happened." That was definitely bizarre to me.
Payne Lindsey: Ten years gone by, what theories have run through your head? If you had to pick something, what stands out the most to you?
Jim Hickey: You know, who knows? You don't want to throw her boyfriend under the bus because that's not fair to him. There is an attitude or a thought in our country that you're innocent until proven guilty. But everybody was grabbing for straws when this whole thing was going on, and your name gets pulled into something and you're ... You know, it's bullshit.
Payne Lindsey: What do you think happened?
Jim Hickey: Honestly, I have no clue, dude. Because there's just no evidence. I mean, there was nothing for the police. And that's the sad part of this whole thing as far as I know, because if there was any evidence ... It's just a sad situation. It's just sad that human beings do that to each other. She was a great person. Her kids loved her. Everybody that I knew that knew her cared a lot about her. I doubt you're going to get him to talk, but that thing with the cop to me is extremely weird. I mean, anybody that calls anybody twenty ... I mean, I forgot how many times he was on her message machine, but that's a disturbed person. It's a controlling person. Maybe you call twice. I'll give you twice. But at some point, you know you've left a message. You don't need to leave 20 more. There's somebody down there that's got a lot more information than I've got. Whether they're willing to talk about it or not is a whole other issue. Small towns have a way of covering shit up.
News Reporter 1: You know what's interesting about that? I mean ... they looked at that DNA glove and the latex, but it doesn't match any of the men that apparently were in her life, who all have alibis. And they not only ran it through the state DNA database, but they ran it, as you said -
News reporter 2: National.
News reporter 1: Right. The national DNA database and it matches no one.
Police man: It would appear that Tara may have left on her own; however, we had a glove ... a latex glove ... that we couldn't explain.
Payne Lindsey: Perhaps the most mysterious part about this whole case is that latex glove found in Tara's front yard. You could think of a thousand different theories of what happened to Tara. But then somehow you have to fit that latex glove into the picture. I just can't wrap my mind around the fact that the DNA doesn't match a single person in this case. I spoke to the Ocilla Police Chief about this glove. Billy Hancock. And he told me it was white, just like a standard latex glove you could buy at a pharmacy. But a few weeks ago, I was re-watching some of the older TV specials on this case, and I came across something pretty interesting. This is Greta Van Susteren interviewing Tara's sister, Anita, about the glove.
Greta: And I take it a latex glove would be something unusual in her front yard?
Anita: It was a blue latex glove, one that you would see worn by, you know, law enforcement.
Payne Lindsey: Did you catch that? Tara's sister said the glove was blue, not white. Why would she think that? Maybe she was just confused, but this is Tara's sister we're talking about. She should know. For further clarification, I called Maurice.
To your knowledge, what do you know to be the color of that glove?
Maurice: I know that color to be white. That's what I was told. It was supposed to be bagged and tagged for evidence, but I was informed by one of Tara's best friends that when she went to the police department on Wednesday that she saw the bag sitting on the desk of ... Detective Barr's desk at Ocilla PD on Wednesday. Whether that's true or not, I don't know, but that's what I was told. The way it's supposed to be bagged and tagged and taped and labeled on the outside.
Payne Lindsey: If that's true, would it jeopardize the reliability of that glove?
Maurice: If it is true, it would give a defense attorney a lot of ammunition.
Payne Lindsey: So the police chief says it's white. Maurice says it's white, but Tara's sister says it's blue. Maurice also said that Tara's friend saw the glove just sitting in a bag on a desk at the police station several days later. I knew the friend he was talking about because I tried to reach out to her almost six months ago, so I hit her up again and this time she was down to talk.
She told me she was concerned about her safety and she didn't want me using her name.
Tara's friend: I walked to that house. I got there in daylight. There were already police people in there. When you stand ... Have you been at her house? Have you been to that house yet?
Payne Lindsey: I've been to it. I haven't been inside it though.
Tara's friend: Okay, well, when you go right up to the door, the glove was laying in a bed, like in the middle of the yard between two trees. It wasn't a flower bed. It was more like a ... just a pine straw bed that had two trees in it. I saw it. Bill Barrs and them had not even found it when I got there. I saw them pick it up and put it in a paper bag. Nobody saw it. Okay, so I said, "Hey, there's that." And [inaudible 00:26:37] like they already saw it. They had not picked it up yet. Well, they went and picked it up and put it in a brown paper bag. Three days later, it was still sitting behind Bill Barrs' desk. And the GBI had been there. I was like, "Man, when are you going to give them that glove?" So that thing had sat there unsealed for three days. So I don't trust that glove. That glove don't mean shit to me. It can be changed out. It was blue latex glove, and I'm not even sure that the one they have now is blue.
Payne Lindsey: You are 100% certain it was blue?
Tara's friend: I'm 100% certain.
Payne Lindsey: Thank you guys for listening to Episode 9. If you're enjoying the show and you want to help us out, you can do so by subscribing on iTunes, giving us a rating, and writing a review. All that really helps us in the iTunes charts. This Thursday I'm dropping a bonus Q and A episode. Maurice will be on as a special guest and will answer some of your questions. If you want to participate, just call our voicemail line anytime. The number is (770) 545-6411. We're taking a short week off for Christmas, so after the Q and A episode this Thursday, the next episode will come out on Monday, January 2. And by the way, we got a new website. Just go to upandvanished.com to check it out. And for the latest updates on this case, check out the discussions page. Thanks for listening, guys, and I'll see you this Thursday.