FITZGERALD, Ga. (AP) — A second man was arrested Friday in connection with the slaying of Georgia high school teacher who vanished nearly 12 years ago, with warrants saying the new suspect helped the woman’s killer dispose of her body.
The Ben Hill County sheriff’s office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation declined to comment on the arrest of 32-year-old Bo Dukes, citing a gag order imposed by a judge earlier in the week.
But Georgia news media reported that arrest warrants showed Dukes was charged with concealing a body, evidence tampering and hindering the apprehension of a criminal in connection with the disappearance of Tara Grinstead.
Grinstead, a former beauty queen and teacher, went missing from her home in October 2005. The case stumped investigators for more than a decade. But the GBI announced last week it had charged 33-year-old Ryan Alexander Duke with murder in the case. Duke attended Irwin County High School at the same time Grinstead taught history there.
It wasn’t immediately clear how Duke and Dukes knew one another, or if they might be related given their similar last names.
The second arrest came after GBI investigators spent several days searching a pecan farm near Fitzgerald, about 9 miles north of the rural farm community of Ocilla where Grinstead lived. The GBI has not said whether it found Grinstead’s remains.
A search warrant said Dukes had helped “conceal and destroy” Grinstead’s body in 2005, WMAZ-TV reported (http://on.wmaz.com/2lDkEVs ).
Dukes was released from jail Friday after posting $15,000 bond and waiving his first appearance before a judge, media organizations reported.
Superior Court Judge Melanie Cross, who is presiding over the murder case against Duke in neighboring Irwin County, issued a gag order Tuesday prohibiting attorneys, law enforcement officers, potential witnesses and relatives of the suspect and victim from discussing the case outside the courtroom.
GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles cited the gag order when she declined to release information on Dukes’ arrest.
“We’ve been told not to make any comments at all,” Miles told The Associated Press.
A woman who answered the phone at the Ben Hill County Sheriff’s Office said reporters seeking information on Dukes’ arrest must submit a written request for records in person. The Georgia Open Records Act does not require requests for public documents to be submitted in person or prohibit them from being submitted electronically via email.
The judge wrote in her order that Duke’s “right to a fair trial may be prejudiced” by public statements made by parties in the case outside the courtroom.
Nancy Ross, Superior Court clerk for Irwin County, told The Telegraph (http://bit.ly/2mTXIm1) of Macon that she had been “verbally instructed” by the judge to seal court records in the case as well. The written order itself does not mention sealing court records from public view.
“The judge’s order, however well intentioned, is overbroad,” David Hudson, an attorney for the Georgia Press Association, told the Macon newspaper.