The Dateline episode “A Small Town Secret” investigates the 2005 disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a 30-year-old high school teacher in Ocilla, Georgia (population 3,414). Twelve years after the former beauty queen’s disappearance, in February 2017 the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) announced the arrest of Ryan Alexander Duke for the murder and concealment of Grinstead. Investigators believe Duke murdered Grinstead in her home and then moved her body. A former classmate of Duke’s, Bo Dukes (no relation) was charged with attempting to conceal a death, hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence.
In August 2018, Duke hired Cobb County attorney Ashleigh Merchant and her husband John Merchant to represent him in court. Duke was formerly represented by public defenders. According to court documents, both Duke and Dukes confessed to the crimes weeks after Grinstead’s disappearance. But that was 13 years ago. Duke’s attorneys claim most of the charges should be dropped due to the statute of limitations. Dateline airs Fridays at 10pm on NBC.