Ryan Alexander Duke told investigators in 2017 that he killed former pageant queen Tara Grinstead back in 2005 but was found not guilty of her murder by a jury Friday.
Duke took less than a minute-and-a-half to admit to murdering Grinstead when he walked into a Georgia police station in 2017, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported, citing the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). He also told the GBI he helped burn her body, according to the outlet.
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Duke broke into Grinstead’s home looking for money to buy drugs with and attacked her when she caught him, according to the confession he provided to the GBI in 2017, the AJC noted. He reportedly knew specific, non-public details about the case, including that a call placed from a payphone.
“I don’t feel like I deserve to be free to breathe,” Duke said in his written confession in 2017, according to the New York Post. “I can’t begin to comprehend the pain I have caused to her family and loved ones.”
While testifying, Duke was asked if he killed Grinstead, who had gone on to become a high school teacher, the AJC reported. “I did not,” Duke reportedly responded.
Duke claimed that his former best friend, Bo Dukes, killed Grinstead, but the two of them allegedly both boasted about the killing following her disappearance in October 2005, the outlet continued. Duke and Dukes claimed they burned her body on land owned by the Dukes family, which was reported to the authorities before the case drew national attention and the investigators became swamped with tips, the AJC continued.
Duke claimed he made the confession in 2017 because he was scared of Dukes, Law and Crime reported. Duke alleged Dukes told him he killed Grinstead after Dukes woke him up the night of the murder, according to AJC. (RELATED: Mother Arrested, Placed Under Mental Health Evaluation After Three Children Found Dead)
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Dukes had initially claimed that he had no information about Grinstead’s disappearance or death but later confessed to helping get rid of her body, the AJC reported. Dukes received a 25-year prison sentence in 2019 for concealing Grinstead’s death, according to the outlet. He attended the trial but invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to testify, the AJC continued.
The jury in Duke’s case acquitted him of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and burglary, but found him guilty of concealing a death, the AJC reported. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday, according to the New York Post.