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Jurors have acquitted Ryan Duke of murdering 30-year-old teacher and beauty queen Tara Grinstead. Duke was only convicted Friday of concealing death of another for keeping Grinstead’s whereabouts in the 2005 incident a secret.

Duke was acquitted of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated assault, and burglary.

Prosecutors said Duke was Grinstead’s killer and that he took her life when she found him burglarizing her home. But Duke, who initially confessed to investigators, said it was actually his friend Bo Dukes (no relation) who committed the murder.

Ryan testified he was living with Bo in 2005, who recruited him early Oct. 23, 2005 to burn Grinstead’s body.

“I still think he’s screwing with me,” Ryan said of his thoughts before he saw the remains. “I think this is a joke.”

But there was a body.

Bo Dukes at one point fondled the remains, Ryan Duke said.

“I remember telling him to stop, and I remember how he looked at me. It was like I had never seen him before,” Ryan said. Asked how Bo looked, Ryan said he couldn’t articulate it. “I don’t have the words to describe it.”

Ryan said he initially confessed under investigation in 2017 because he did not think Bo was going to confess. He described himself as experiencing long-term, prolific substance abuse at this time. He had taken morphine, Percocet, “probably a couple of Vicodin,” and marijuana before meeting authorities because he knew he was not coming home.

Ryan described an intertwined but fraught relationship between him and Bo. They started hanging out in his senior year of high school, he testified. He did not think that Bo had a good reputation among their friends, causing “scenes” to make other people uncomfortable, he said. Bo was not considered trustworthy, he said.

Nonetheless, they eventually moved in together with Ryan’s brother. Again, there were allegedly signs of trouble. Bo not contributing financially, Ryan testified.

He said that he kept secret the truth of Grinstead’s death all these years because he was afraid of what Bo might do. Prosecutor J.D. Hart challenged him during cross-examination on how he construed his relationship to Bo. She described them as formerly “joined at the hip.” Ryan acknowledged he was Bo’s friend, but he disputed her use of the phrase “best friends.” He voiced doubt that Bo was ever his friend.

As for Bo Dukes, he did not speak on his behalf when the defense called him up to testify. He repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination on Tuesday when Ryan’s attorney Ashleigh Merchant requested his name, asked how he got to court, and showed him an exhibit.

“On the advice of counsel, I’ll be invoking my right not to provide testimony,” Bo intoned.

He is already serving a 25-year prison sentence just in connection to burning Grinstead’s body. Contrary to Ryan’s story and the jury’s new verdict, prosecutors treated him as only the accomplice, not the killer.

[Screenshot of Ryan Duke (center) with his attorneys via Law&Crime Network]

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