Ryan Duke, the man accused of killing Georgia high school teacher Tara Grinstead in 2005, has been acquitted of murder. On Monday, he was sentenced for covering up her death.

A jury found Duke not guilty of felony murder, malice murder, burglary, and aggravated assault but found him guilty of concealing a death.

Grinstead, who was 30 years old at the time of her death, was a former beauty queen who won Miss Tifton and competed in the Miss Georgia pageant. 

She disappeared from Irwin Country in 2005 after attending an evening cookout. It wasn’t until 2017 that Duke confessed to the murder and told police he intended to break into Grinstead’s home to steal money to purchase drugs.

Duke claimed he was startled when he saw Grinstead and hit her, which resulted in her death. He later took investigators to a pecan orchard where he and his friend, Bo Dukes, burned Grinstead’s body.

During the trial, Duke recanted his confession and his attorneys blamed Dukes for the murder. While Dukes was convicted for helping dispose of the body, he was never charged with Grinstead’s murder.

Before Duke’s sentencing on Monday, Grinstead’s family read their impact statements to the court. The victim’s sister, Anita Grinstead Gattis, pleaded for the maximum sentence.

“Ryan Duke has been in jail for five years at the Irwin County Detention Center. Personally, I have lived in a prison of hell for almost 17 years,” Gattis said. 

“The maximum he can serve on the charge of concealing a death is 10 years. That’s only seven years less than the sentence that I and the rest of Tara’s family and friends have experienced due to his revolting and villainous actions.”

Grinstead’s body was never found, though law enforcement officials were able to match her DNA to bone fragments found in the orchard where Duke took investigators.

courtroom-898931_1920 Representationl. A courtroom. Photo: 12019/Pixabay