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Ryan Duke takes the stand in his own murder trial, denies killing Tara Grinstead

Duke previously confessed to GBI investigators he killed Tara Grinstead, but he told the courtroom a different story Tuesday.

OCILLA, Ga. — “Why are you comfortable telling the truth?”

“Because Bo is in prison.”

It was another major day of testimony in the Ryan Duke murder trial as Duke took the stand in his own defense.

Five years ago, Duke confessed to GBI investigators that he killed Tara Grinstead in Oct. 2005, but he told the courtroom a different story Tuesday when he said his friend Bo Dukes is the real killer.

  • Prosecutor J.D. Hart: You want the jury to believe you lied and confessed to a murder you didn’t commit because you were scared of Bo Dukes, right?
  • Duke: I lied and confessed because I thought Bo would never tell the truth about what happened and what he did to her.
  • Hart: You could have just told them the truth and the family would have had some semblance of peace, right?
  • Duke: I don’t know that.

Duke said back in 2005 that Bo had no job, no money, and sponged off him by living in his trailer. He testified Bo would steal from him.

He also claimed that on the night of Oct. 22, 2005 – the night Tara went missing – he and Bo drank beer and did shots of tequila. Duke says Bo woke him around 8 a.m. the next morning and told him he killed Grinstead.

The two men were classmates at Irwin County High, where Grinstead taught. He later testified that Bo took him to a pecan orchard in Ben Hill County.

“She was beat up with bruises on her arms and legs. I wouldn’t have recognized her… he lit her on fire,” said Duke.

The prosecution quickly began poking holes in Duke’s testimony in cross-examination, starting with asking him why investigators found a glove with his and Grinstead’s DNA on it in her front yard.

The state also argued that Duke’s various stories contradicted each other, including what he told a friend in a recording.

  • Hart: You not only made up that you were sleeping with Ms. Grinstead, but you also made up that you were having sex with her since high school?
  • Duke: Yes ma’am.
  • Hart: And the truth was you never met Tara Grinstead?
  • Duke: Other than walking past her.

The defense is arguing Duke falsely confessed in 2017 while under the influence of a narcotic painkiller, but prosecutors pointed out his account on what drugs he was taking keeps changing.

Bo Dukes was also called in to testify, but he pleaded the Fifth to avoid incriminating himself. He spent less than two minutes on the stand.

RELATED: Tara Grinstead case: Defense questions if there's enough forensic evidence to convict Ryan Duke

RELATED: Tara Grinstead case: Jurors see videos of Ryan Duke guiding agents to remains, murder confession

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