Search for Tara Grinstead's remains stirs memories for Ben Hill man

James Wilcox of Ben Hill County recalled searching for Tara Grinstead's body in 2005 near the area where GBI investigators were searching for her remains Tuesday and Wednesday.

As GBI search teams continued looking for the remains of Tara Grinstead at a Fitzgerald pecan farm Wednesday, it stirred memories for a man who lives less than a mile away.

James Wilcox, a lifelong resident of Ben Hill County, said he was part of the original search team in October 2005 when the Ocilla teacher went missing.

"We searched this whole area," he said standing in front of the orchard Wednesday.

Wilcox said the search teams back then didn't look on the property of the Hudson Pecan orchard where teams started searching Tuesday.

"Each time we'd go out, we would search a different area," Wilcox said. "I didn't ever search this particular area," he added pointing to the farm that was fenced off with a "No Trespassing" sign.

Wilcox didn't know Grinstead, but he said he spent the better part of four or five days looking for her.

"When something happens like this, it's unusual," he said adding that he joined the search because, "I'm retired and I didn't have anything else to do."

VIDEO: Aerial footage over Fitzgerald pecan farm during search for Grinstead's remains

We do not know if investigators have any remains, but if they do, Wilcox said he'd be surprised. "It would be shocking that all the places we looked and she was this close," he said.

Ryan Duke was arrested and charged with murder last week in Grinstead's 2005 disappearance and death.

The property being searched is owned by Randy Hudson, CEO of Hudson Pecan.

According to the company's website, Hudson harvests more than 1,500 acres of groves in several counties and processes more than 5 million tons of pecans a year.

It's a family owned company that's been in business for more than 150 years.

Law enforcement hasn't said whether there's any connection between Hudson Pecan and the Grinstead case.

They also haven't named any persons of interest in the case except for suspect Ryan Duke.

"Our most sincere prayers go out to the Grinstead family," Hudson said while giving a statement to 13WMAZ Wednesday morning. "I'd also like to say that we are cooperating with the local sheriff's agency and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in regards to this matter on our farm."

 


 

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