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Missing Woman: Tara Grinstead - GA - 10/22/2005

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October 25, 2005

From the Ocilla Police Department

Ocilla, Georgia -- On October 24, 2005 at 8:50AM, the Ocilla Police Department responded to a missing person report made by neighbors and coworkers at the Irwin County High School.

They were concerned because Tara Grinstead did not show up for work and they were unable to make contact with her.

The last known contact was on 10/22/2005 at approximately 11:00 p.m.

There is no known description of her clothing. Her car is parked in the driveway of her residence. Her house was locked and the only items that appear to be missing are her purse and keys.

Tara Grinstead

Age: 30

Sex: FEMALE

Race: WHITE

Hair: BROWN

Eyes: BROWN

Height: 5'3"

Weight: 125

Missing From: Ocilla, Georgia Since: 10/22/2005

Any information please contact GBI Agent Dominic Turner or Detective Bill Barrs at (229)468-7494, or 229-468-TIPS(8477)

Kelly Jolkowski, Mother of Missing Jason Jolkowski

President and Founder,

Project Jason

www.projectjason.org

Read our blog about missing persons:

http://voice4themissing.blogspot.com/

If you have seen any of our missing persons, please call the law enforcement agency listed on the post. All missing persons are loved by someone, and their families deserve to find the answers they seek in regards to the disappearance.

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Schoolteacher missing

Publication Date: 2005-10-26 Author: J.D. Sumner

OCILLA - A former Miss Tifton who now teaches at Irwin High School is missing, police and school officials said Tuesday.

Tara Faye Grinstead, 30, of Ocilla was last seen around 11 p.m. Saturday after the Miss Sweet Potato pageant. Grinstead, Miss Tifton 1999, helped with hair and makeup for the pageant.

"We're canvassing the county looking for her," Irwin County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Billy Hancock said. "The only things missing from her house are her purse and keys, but her car is sitting out front."

Because of the ongoing investigation, Hancock wouldn't go into much detail, saying only that there were a few things that caught the investigators' attention and that the GBI is assisting in the investigation.

Police were notified after Grinstead failed to show up for work Monday at the Irwin County High School. Friends say Grinstead, a ninth-grade history teacher and administrator, would never duck out of school without telling someone.

"She is just an exemplary teacher,"Â Suzanne Connor, wife of Principal Robby Connor and a close personal friend, said. "She lives for her students. I hope this community will rally behind her and help us to find her."

Connor said that counselors had spoken with her students and were available to help.

Monday night Connor and other teachers distributed 2,000 flyers throughout the county in an effort to alert the community about their missing friend.

"Teachers for Tara" were also planning a prayer vigil for Grinstead Tuesday night at the Irwin County Courthouse.

Grinstead is described as a white female with brown hair and brown eyes. She stands about 5'3" tall and weighs about 125 pounds. Anyone with any information about her whereabouts is urged to call the Ocilla Police Department at 468-7494 or call their tip line at 468-TIPS (8477).

http://www.tiftongazette.com/

Local Teacher Missing

Last Update: 10/25/2005

Ocilla Police Chief Billy Hancock says 30-year-old Tara Grinstead hasn't been seen or heard from since Saturday night between 10 and 11 pm.

Hancock says Grinstead also didn't show up for work Monday morning at Irwin County High School.

Hancock says Grinstead's car is still parked in her driveway, but her purse and keys were missing from the home.

Ocilla Police and the G.B.I. continue to search for the young woman.

Her family has been emailing her picture across the country hoping someone, somewhere, can lead the former beauty queen home.

DEBBIE GRINSTEAD, COUSIN:

"Tara was a beautiful child and she's grown up to be a beautiful woman. I know Tara has brought a lot of things into other peoples lives not only her family."

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Tara Grinstead is asked to call the Ocilla Police Department at (229) 468-7494.

Grinstead is from Hawkinsville. Tuesday night, the First Baptist Church in Hawkinsville held a prayer vigil for the missing woman.

http://www.13wmaz.com/

Town worries about missing teacher

October 25, 2005

Ocilla-- In Ocilla, almost 100 people came together to pray and console each other. Tara, Grinstead, a 30-year-old teacher at Irwin County High School, is missing.

Flyers decorate the small town and a vigil is held to pray for Tara Grinstead and her family. Yellow ribbons decorate the school where Tara teaches, they serve as a symbol for Tara's safe return home.

"Everybody that knows her loves her. She loves her job teaching, she loves the kids, they love her," says Tara's stepmother, Connie Grinstead.

"I just want her back," says Bill Grinstead. Grinstead has not seen or heard from his daughter, Tara Grinstead in three days now.

"We don't really know what's happened to her. All we know is that she has gone missing," he says.

Friends last saw Tara Saturday night at a beauty pageant in Fitzgerald. It wasn't until two days later that they became worried.

"When she didn't report for work. She teaches 11th grade history at Irwin County High School, we knew something was wrong," says Tara's father.

Even though Tara's no where in sight, right now, police are not suspecting foul play. "We haven't found anything at this point to leave us to believe anything," says Ocilla Police Department Chief, Billy Hancock.

Police say after investigating the house, they found no signs of forced entry."Whoever has her is somebody that Tara knows," says Tara's sister, Anita Gattis.

Grattis believes Tara stepped out the house briefly with every intention of returning."Her car was unlocked, there was cash still in her car that she didn't take with her, she never leaves her house without a cell phone it was by her bed," she says.

The only things missing from Tara's house were her keys and purse. Tara's sister says its unlike her to just up and vanish. "She is a grounded, very focused, a very strong Christian woman," she says.

Tara's stepmother agrees. "This is so out of character for her to not go to work, to not call, to not have gotten in touch with somebody," says Tara's stepmother.

Tara's parents say they'll do everything they can to find their daughter. "We're looking for her and we will not stop until we find her," says Connie Grinstead.

But has a message to parents everywhere. "You folks, that's got kids, love em, thank you," says Billy Grinstead.

If you have any information about Tara's where abouts, please call 229-468-TIPS.

http://www.walb.com/

Irwin Co. teacher missing

Author: Staff Reports

Publication Date: 2005-10-26

DOUGLAS  Irwin County High School teacher Tara Grinstead is missing, and area law enforcement officials are asking anyone with any information to contact the Ocilla Police Department.

Tara Grinstead was reported missing Monday morning by coworkers and neighbors after she did not show up to work, and friends told police that they had not spoken with Grinstead since late Saturday evening, according to Ocilla Police Chief Billy Hancock.

Police searched Grinstead's residence Monday. Her car was parked in the driveway of her residence, and her house was locked and did not appear to be disturbed. Hancock said that the only items that appeared to be missing were Grinstead's purse and keys.

"Up until Monday, everyone was hoping she would just show up, but that hasn't happened," Hancock said.

Police describe Grinstead as a 30-year-old white female with brown hair and eyes. She stands five feet, three inches tall, and weighs 125 pounds. Police have no last-known direction of travel or description of clothing.

Anyone with any information regarding the whereabouts of Tara Grinstead should contact Detective Bill Barrs at the Ocilla Police Department at 229-468-7494.

http://www.douglasga.com

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Community searches for missing 30-year-old teacher

Thu, Oct. 27, 2005

By Tim Sturrock

TELEGRAPH STAFF WRITER

OCILLA - More than 100 people gathered Wednesday to search parts of rural Irwin County for any trace of Tara Grinstead, a high school history teacher reported missing Monday.

Grinstead, a 30-year-old Hawkinsville native, was last heard from Saturday, law enforcement officials said.

Friends describe the former beauty queen as a bubbly, vivacious and outgoing person who never met a stranger. She decided on a teaching career, they said, because she wanted to help people.

Grinstead, a former Miss Tifton and a contestant in the Miss Georgia pageant, was last seen at a beauty pageant she attended Saturday in Fitzgerald, Ocilla Police Chief Billy Hancock said. She went home after the pageant but hasn't been seen or heard from since, Hancock said.

The GBI has taken the lead in the investigation, and Grinstead's disappearance is being treated as a missing-person's case, said Hancock, the top police official in a town of about 3,300 people.

Officials are considering the possibility that Grinstead, who lived alone and wasn't married, was abducted.

"We're considering any possibility that may come forth, and anytime the phone rings we're following up any leads," Hancock said.

Friends and family tried unsuccessfully to contact Grinstead on Sunday, Hancock said. Then she didn't show up at her teaching job at Irwin County High School, he said.

"We know this is very unusual for her. She is a very responsible person," Hancock said. "We don't think she wouldn't show up without telling someone."

Hancock said investigators found at her home the clothes she wore Saturday night, as well as her car and cell phone. Her pocketbook and keys were missing, he said.

Wednesday afternoon, searchers were told that some previously searched areas of the county will be searched again. They were told specifically to look for her pocketbook.

Volunteers prayed for Grinstead's safe return Wednesday before they headed out to their cars, trucks and all-terrain vehicles.

Officers from more than 10 nearby law enforcement agencies are assisting in the search, which included a helicopter and search dogs, Irwin County sheriff's deputy Nelson Paulk said.

More than $10,000 collected from donations is being offered to anyone with information leading to Grinstead's whereabouts, said Wendy McFarland, a teacher at Irwin County High School.

She said the response from the community "demonstrates how close a small community is."

Grinstead, she said, is a vital part of the community.

"She is more than just a teacher. Many of her students would call her more of a friend," McFarland said. "She took a personal interest in all of her students."

McFarland said Grinstead coordinated a beauty pageant at the high school, and proceeds went to charity.

Grinstead's stepmother, Connie Grinstead, said Tara Grinstead originally moved from Hawkinsville to take a student-teaching position in Irwin County.

"She fell in love with the community, and she decided she didn't want to leave and has been here ever since," Connie Grinstead said.

Tara Grinstead's father, Billy, who once lived in Ocilla, said he has been impressed but not surprised by the community response.

"I feel we're doing everything we can do," he said. "I feel empty. I feel helpless. I know I've got to be patient, but it's not easy to be patient."

Maria Hulett, a friend of Tara Grinstead's from Hawkinsville, said she has been in Ocilla since Monday searching, praying and handing out fliers.

"We're hoping someone is going to see something," Hulett said. "Any little tips they're going on and checking out."

Hulett said Grinstead has had a deep impact on the community.

"Kids at school have been so concerned," Hulett said. "The town has been great. You can tell they care about her."

Hulett, like many others Wednesday, said she was in shock about Grinstead's disappearance. She described the week as surreal.

"You don't think it will happen to someone that you love," Hulett said.

"You see this on the news and you hear about it, and you may pray about it a couple of times and that's it. But when it's someone you love, you wished you'd been (praying more) for somebody else."

Anyone with information about Grinstead's disappearance should call the Ocilla Police Department at (229) 468-7494.

http://www.macon.com/

Investigation into missing teacher continues

Posted on Thu, Oct. 27, 2005

By Tim Sturrock

TELEGRAPH STAFF WRITER

Investigators are re-interviewing people today in the search for a missing high school teacher in Irwin County, Ocilla Police Chief Billy Hancock said.

Tara Grinstead, a 30-year-old Hawkinsville native, hasn't been seen since Saturday and didn't show up for her job at Irwin County High School on Monday.

Hancock said investigators found at her home the clothes she wore Saturday night, as well as her car and cell phone. Her pocketbook and keys were missing, he said.

There are no current plans to search today for Grinstead, but investigators are looking for new information in the case, Hancock said.

He said investigators have received numerous tips so far about Grinstead.

"We do get people calling in with leads and we do check them out, and that happens pretty regularly," he said. "But nothing has panned out at this point."

Grinstead said investigators are considering all possibilities, but the investigation is still considered a missing-person's case.

"We're not ruling out any possibility. We're not ruling out the possibility that she was abducted. We're not ruling out the possibility that she drove off with someone and something happened between the two of them," he said.

He said searchers combed Ocilla and rural parts of the county Wednesday.

http://www.macon.com/

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Former Beauty Queen Disappears

Last updated: October 27, 2005

Thirty-year-old Tara Grinstead, former contestant in the Miss Georgia Pageant, has been the subject of a massive search in the rural town of Ocilla, Georgia.

More than 100 people gathered Wednesday, October 27, 2005 in the small town south of Macon to search for any trace of Tara. Police say that Tara was last heard from on Saturday, October 22 after she attended a beauty pageant in Fitzgerald. Ocilla Police Chief Billy Hancock said she went home after the pageant but hasn't been seen or heard from since.

Tara taught the 11th grade at Irwin County High School. Friends and family say they tried unsuccessfully to contact Grinstead on Sunday. Then her co-workers say she didn't show up at her teaching job at Irwin County High School the following Monday. Her co-workers contacted police and reported her missing.

Friends and family say they tried unsuccessfully to contact Grinstead on Sunday. Then her co-workers say she didn't show up at her teaching job at Irwin County High School the following Monday.

Case Being Treated Like Missing Person's Case

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has taken the lead in the investigation and authorities say Grinstead's disappearance is being treated as a missing-person's case. Officials say they are considering the possibility that Grinstead, who lived alone, was abducted.

Hancock said investigators found at her home the clothes she wore Saturday night, as well as her car and cell phone. Her pocketbook and keys were missing.

Days after her disappearance searchers were told specifically to look for her pocketbook. Volunteers prayed for Grinstead's safe return before they headed out to their cars, trucks and all-terrain vehicles.

Nearby Jurisdictions Join Search

Officers from more than 10 nearby law enforcement agencies are assisting in the search, which included a helicopter and search dogs, Irwin County sheriff's deputy Nelson Paulk said.

More than $10,000 collected from donations is being offered to anyone with information leading to Grinstead's whereabouts.

Friends say that Tara is a bubbly, vivacious and outgoing person. They said she decided on a teaching career because she wanted to help people. Tara is 5'3,'' 130 lbs, and has brown hair and brown eyes.

http://www.amw.com/

Investigation Into Missing Teacher Continues

Posted on Thu, Oct. 27, 2005

By Tim Sturrock

TELEGRAPH STAFF WRITER

Investigators are re-interviewing people today in the search for a missing high school teacher in Irwin County, Ocilla Police Chief Billy Hancock said.

Tara Grinstead, a 30-year-old Hawkinsville native, hasn't been seen since Saturday and didn't show up for her job at Irwin County High School on Monday.

Hancock said investigators found at her home the clothes she wore Saturday night, as well as her car and cell phone. Her pocketbook and keys were missing, he said.

There are no current plans to search today for Grinstead, but investigators are looking for new information in the case, Hancock said.

He said investigators have received numerous tips so far about Grinstead.

"We do get people calling in with leads and we do check them out, and that happens pretty regularly," he said. "But nothing has panned out at this point."

Grinstead said investigators are considering all possibilities, but the investigation is still considered a missing-person's case.

"We're not ruling out any possibility. We're not ruling out the possibility that she was abducted. We're not ruling out the possibility that she drove off with someone and something happened between the two of them," he said.

He said searchers combed Ocilla and rural parts of the county Wednesday.

http://www.macon.com

Ocilla teacher still missing

October 27, 2005

Ocilla-- Flyers still decorate this small Irwin County town, where a vigil was recently held to pray for 30-year-old teacher Tara Grinstead and her family.

Yellow ribbons decorate Irwin County High School where Tara teaches 11th grade history, serving as a symbol for Tara's safe return home.

"I just want her back," says Bill Grinstead. Grinstead has not seen or heard from his daughter for five days. "We don't really know what's happened to her. All we know is that she has gone missing," he says.

Friends last saw Tara Saturday night at a beauty pageant in Fitzgerald. It wasn't until two days later that they became worried.

Though family friends and many at the school are upset about her disappearance, Ocilla Police Department Chief Billy Hancock does not suspect foul play.

Police say after investigating the house, they found no signs of forced entry. The only things missing were her keys and purse.

Tara's parents say they'll do everything they can to find their daughter.

If you have any information about Tara Grinstead's where abouts, please call 229-468-TIPS. A reward has been pledged for her return.

http://www.walb.com/

$10,000 Reward Offered For Missing South Georgia Teacher

POSTED: October 27, 2005

OCILLA, Ga. -- Police are searching for an Ocilla High School teacher missing for almost a week. Authorities said Tara Grinstead, 30, of Ocilla, was last seen late Saturday night after the Miss Sweet Potato Pageant in Ocilla.

The former Miss Tifton was reported missing after failing to show up to work Monday morning at Irwin County High School, where she is a ninth-grade history teacher and administrator.

Her car is parked in the driveway of her residence, her house was locked and the only items that appear to be missing are her purse and keys

Police and citizens' groups have participated in the search for Grinstead. Ocilla Police Chief Billy Hancock said Thursday that not much has changed in the search and there have been no breaks in the case.

"I'm getting calls from as far away as New York," Hancock said. "We're checking each one out."

Hancock announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the location and safe return of Grinstead. She is a white woman with brown hair and brown eyes. She is about 5 feet 3 inches tall weighs 125 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to call Ocilla Police Department Detective Bill Barrs or Georgia Bureau of Information Agent Dominic Turner at (229) 468-7494.

http://www.news4jax.com/

Website for Tara:

http://www.findtara.com/index.htm

Police tracking down leads in missing-woman case

Posted on Fri, Oct. 28, 2005

By Tim Sturrock

TELEGRAPH STAFF WRITER

The whereabouts of an Irwin County high school teacher remained a mystery Thursday, but investigators said they are still pursuing leads.

Tara Grinstead, a 30-year-old Hawkinsville native, hasn't been seen since Saturday. Ocilla police were notified that she was missing after she didn't show up for work Monday at Irwin County High School.

Ocilla Police Chief Billy Hancock said Grinstead had attended a beauty pageant in Fitzgerald on Saturday before heading to a former Irwin County school superintendant's house. Grinstead was last seen at 11 p.m., Hancock said.

Maria Hulett, a friend of Grinstead's, said Grinstead watched a football game and had dinner with the former superintendant, his wife and family, and other friends that night.

Investigators are trying to piece together details of what happened after she left the gathering.

What they do know is the clothes she wore Saturday night were found in her house, along with her cell phone. Her car was parked outside, but her pocketbook and keys were missing, Hancock said.

Grinstead, a former Miss Tifton and a contestant in the Miss Georgia pageant, lived alone and has never been married, family members said.

Hancock said investigators have received numerous tips about the Grinstead case.

"We do get people calling in with leads and we do check them out, and that happens pretty regularly," he said. "But nothing has panned out at this point."

Hancock said investigators are considering all possibilities, but the investigation is still considered a missing-person's case.

"We're not ruling out the possibility that she was abducted," he said. "We're not ruling out the possibility that she drove off with someone and something happened between the two of them."

Gary Rothwell, special agent in charge of the GBI office in Perry, said leads haven't been exhausted.

"Our investigators and local investigators have plenty to do" in this case, he said. "You always presume the worst and hope for the best and take in all possibilities for consideration."

Anita Gattis said she has been encouraged by communitywide searches for her sister and the media attention the case has received.

"I've been encouraged every day," she said.

Gattis said she has already been on the Fox News Channel and is scheduled to appear this morning on "The Early Show" on CBS.

Gattis said that nine months ago Grinstead ended a six-year relationship with a man and recently has been working on a doctorate in education.

Gattis said she has concluded her sister was abducted. Because there appears to have been no struggle at Grinstead's house, Gattis said she thinks her sister left with someone she knows.

"If someone came to her house, one of students, maybe in trouble, or one of her teachers needing help, she would have left," Gattis said.

After Grinstead left her house, Gattis speculated, someone likely abducted her.

"She's not the type of person to vanish for a few days," Gattis said.

Anyone with information about Grinstead's disappearance should call the Ocilla Police Department at (229) 468-7494.

http://www.macon.com/

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Town Searches for Missing Teacher

October 28, 2005 By:Brittany Bailey

She's been missing for nearly a week, and there's still no sign of Hawkinsville native Tara Grinstead. Law enforcement and the community are working around the clock to find the missing Ocilla teacher. And now, the reward money tops $20,000.

SUZANNE CONNER, TEACHER:

"She's not just going to walk in here. We're going to have to go out and find her now."

Each day, volunteers search for the missing teacher, marking where they've been and planning to go where they haven't. And, of course, there are the flyers.

SUZANNE CONNER, TEACHER:

"I think it's eyes and ears and just to keep everybody informed. I think it's just so important."

Tara Grinstead's absence may be most felt at the school where she taught. Her students are still learning inside her classroom. But outside, they're writing messages on the wall and wearing them on t-shirts.

DONNA DAVIS, TEACHER:

"They think they are students and they don't know where to go or what to do, so it's good for them. We've seen lots of kids in t-shirts, and them using their own money, a lot of them."

SUZANNE CONNER, TEACHER:

"We just want her back. We miss her terribly. She just means a lot to everybody."

Gary Rothwell with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation says he can't share specifics on leads, suspects or persons of interest. But he did say investigators have plenty of work on their hands in this case.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Tara Grinstead, you're asked to call the Ocilla Police Department at 229-468-7494..

http://www.wmaz.com/

Search for missing teacher continues

Publication Date: 2005-10-29

Author: Dusty Vassey

OCILLA - With the city's biggest festival filling the streets with people today, the search for a missing teacher continues.

Tara Grinstead, 30, of Ocilla, has been missing since at least Monday morning. The Irwin County High School history teacher and administrator was last seen Saturday night at the annual Miss Sweet Potato pageant. The pageant was held in preparation for the annual Sweet Potato Festival and Parade, which begins this morning.

Police have been looking for Grinstead since she failed to show up for school Monday. There were no signs of foul play at her home, but her pocketbook was missing while her car remained parked in a carport. None of her friends or family have heard from her.

"No new news,"Â said Ocilla Police Chief Billy Hancock Friday. "Just the same as yesterday."

Earlier this week scores of officers from many law enforcement agencies participated in a search throughout Ocilla and Irwin County using helicopters, search dogs and old-fashioned legwork. No substantial clues to Grinstead's whereabouts have been found.

The Ocilla community helped raise a $10,000 reward for the location and safe return of Grinstead. Fliers have been placed throughout the city and in surrounding communities. A banner was even placed across a city street to alert the public about the missing woman.

Hancock said that the Sweet Potato Festival may help increase public knowledge about the disappearance.

"Certainly from the standpoint of awareness it's going to help,"Â he said.

He said that the police have been answering many calls with possible clues and checking to either verify or disprove the hints. He said there has been no major break in the case but the police are still doing everything they can to find Grinstead. He said they have still not ruled out any possibility.

The story has brought national attention to the tiny south Georgia town as major news networks such as CNN and Fox News have featured Grinstead's disappearance on their channels.

A Web site, http://www.findtara.com

was also started to aid in the search for the teacher.

Anyone with information should call the Ocilla Police Department at (229) 468-7494.

http://www.tiftongazette.com/

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Students Raise Reward Money

Last Update: 10/29/2005

Web Editor: Kari Webb

It was a showdown of rivals in Ocilla Friday night. The Irwin County Indians faced off against the Fitzgerald Purple Hurricanes. But many of the students had more than just the football game on their minds.

Teacher Tara Grinstead is missing from Ocilla, and Friday afternoon, some of her students swung into action.

The students paid money to swing a sledgehammer at an old car. It was painted purple and yellow in honor of rival Fitzgerald, but the bashing was about more than just taking out some aggression. The students also were raising money for Tara Grinstead's reward fund.

DANA WILDER, STUDENT:

"We're trying to get as much as we can 'cause we really want her back."

EMILY LAVENDER, JUNIOR:

"I think we need it. Instead of everybody just being down about it, everybody's keeping their hopes up, and this is showing it."

After all, even this car's owner took a few swings.

MARK HOGAN, SENIOR:

"I think it's done. It's time to eat something now."

The students say they raised at least $100 at the car bashing.

http://www.13wmaz.com/

Help find Tara

Posted: October 29, 2005

Ocilla - An urgent plea, from friends and family members of a missing South Georgia teacher: Help us find Tara. 30 year old Tara Grinstead of Ocilla has been missing for a week now.

Friends last saw the 30-year-old last Saturday night at a beauty pageant in Fitzgerald. It wasn't until two days later that they became worried. Even though police do not suspect foul play, her family member's believe she may have been abducted by someone she knows.

Tara's about 5-feet 3-inches tall and weighs about 120 pounds. There is now a $20,000 reward leading to the safe return of Tara or for information of her whereabouts.

A community wide search will take place Sunday in Ocilla from 2-5PM. Searchers with four-wheelers, horses and dogs are asked to come out and help, as well as walkers. If you would like to volunteer, call 229-468-9181 to sign up, or go to the Senior Citizens Center on East 4th Street tomorrow in Ocilla.

http://www.walb.com/

Search Continues for Missing Teacher

Last Update: 10/30/2005

By:Tiffanie Wallace

It's been one week since a Georgia teacher was last seen. The search continues for 30-year-old Tara Grinstead.

Grinstead is originally from Hawkinsville.

Grinstead moved to Ocilla and started teaching at Irwin County High School eight years ago.

Friday night at the Irwin County - Fitzgerald football game, thoughts were less on winning the game and more on finding Tara.

Before the game fans had 'Tailgating for Tara.'

Teachers sold buttons and t-shirts to raise money for Grinstead's reward fund.

Fans released yellow balloons at half-time and cheerleaders traded their uniforms for t-shirts with Tara's picture.

The final score of the game was 20 to 25 in favor of Fitzgerald.

On Saturday 300 volunteers from Hawkinsville went to Ocilla to help look for Tara Grinstead.

So far the town's raised $25,000 for Tara's reward fund.

Anyone with information about Tara Grinstead is asked to call the Ocilla Police Department at 229-468-7494.

http://www.13wmaz.com/

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Massive search for missing Irwin Co. woman

October 30, 2005

Ocilla- More than 50 people on horseback and ATV's searched the wooded areas of Ocilla and Irwin County for any sign of Tara Grinstead. Last Saturday was the last time anyone heard from the Irwin County High School Teacher.

"If you're with someone and you're going to go talk or whatever, this might be a place where you might come to talk and it's also if you're going to take, you know it's a very secluded area," said Sonya Popken, Volunteer.

Many volunteers turned up to help with Sunday's search. Eight days after she disappeared, police say they have few clues about what happened to Tara.

"We're looking at everything, we're not ruling out whether it's an abduction, missing person, we're looking at any possibility," said Chief Billy Hancock, Ocilla Police Department.

Her family, including her brother in law say it's unlike Tara to just vanish. "She loved her dog Dolly, and Dolly was there and her cat Herman was there in the house, she always made arrangements for someone to keep them if she's gone anywhere," said Larry Gattis, Brother in law.

"We don't know what was in her pocketbook, we know she had accounts, but we don't know what she had in her purse with her at the time," said Hancock.

Teachers who worked with Tara at Irwin County High School manned the command center and grade Tara's papers hoping for the best.

"That's what we're hoping for that she just needed a break and that she's going to come back and we're all going to open our arms when she does come back, we want Tara back whatever, we want Tara back," said Jenny Abercrombie, Irwin High Department Chair.

Her family waits patiently for any word of what may have happened.

"We're worried and really hope that someone can come up with something so we can find her and we're just concerned about everyone because she was loved by many people," said Gabe Gattis, Tara's nephew.

If you're interested in more information about the search for Tara or know what may have happened to her you can contact the FindTara.com web site or the Ocilla Police Department web site at http://www.ocillapolice.com

http://www.walb.com/

Georgians pull together for missing teacher

October 31, 2005

After Tara Grinstead was reported missing, family and friends raised a $10,000 reward for information leading to her return. Now that has more than doubled.

And news of the missing teacher is gaining national and even worldwide attention. Monday, Tara Grinstead's sister spent the day in Atlanta doing interviews. Volunteers say several national cable news channels have picked up on the story and they've even received emails from as far away as Canada.

There have been several law enforcement briefings at the search command center. A new team from Berrien County arrives to find out what areas of Irwin County they'll spend the day searching. "They're looking for anything from clothing to pocketbooks, or letters that might have something on them, or anything that will ID anything connected with this Tara case," says Sheriff Donnie Youghn.

Authorities have been piecing together maps of the entire county to get a better idea of what portion of the 265,000 acres need to be covered. "We've got the Civil Air pPtrol. We've got the aircraft that's going to be flying grid search this afternoon for three hours, and then we've also got the CAP ground team that's supposed to be here," Youghn says.

Volunteers have even had to change fliers to reflect a new reward amount. It's now up to at least $25,000, some of which has been donated by people who've never met the missing teacher. "The word's getting out there and we're not going to rest until we bring Tara home," says search volunteer Linda Fletcher.

Fletcher helps man the search command center. Though she knew Grinstead, she says she also has a personal reason for spending so much of her free time organizing the search. "I've had a brother in law that went missing years ago, and so I know how it feels to have someone in your family to go missing and it's very tragic," Fletcher says.

Still Fletcher, like many others remains optimistic, but warns everyone to be careful and keep their eyes open. "Be aware of everything around you because we don't want anything to happen to anybody else," Fletcher says.

Though hundreds of volunteers have already helped in the search, authorities say they can always use more. They are also urging people outside of Irwin County to search areas around their homes and look for any clues that would lead them to Grinstead.

Volunteer Members of the local Albany Composite Squadron, Civil Air Patrol are performing air searches with their Cessna 172 aircraft, according to a press release from Lt.Col. Lynn McCracken, Group IV Commander, Civil Air Patrol.

Crews will be flying grids of 15 square miles which takes 54 minutes for each grid until the search of the county is completed.

Crew Members flying Civil Air Patrol Cessna 172 990CP from Albany, GA are local Albanians Lt.Col. Roy Young, Capt. James A. Lawton and Lt. Phil Jourdan. Lt. Col. Marl L. McCracken is directing the air search for this mission.

Authorities say people with any piece of information, no matter how small it is, should call either the tips line at 229-468-TIPS or the search command center tip line at 229-268-0667.

Learn more at http://www.findtara.com

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The Tara Grinstead search continues

November 1, 2005

Albany/Ocilla - The search continues for missing Ocilla teacher Tara Grinstead. The 30 year old disappeared 10 days ago. Now, a search and rescue operation from Albany is going to help in the search.

Hundreds of people search by foot, by horse, and by air. Now, four more people, this time with Albany-Dougherty County Search and Rescue are going to help find Tara .

"Anytime the surrounding counties contact us to help out, we're glad to help out. We have a mutual aid agreement with any of the counties in Georgia. This is what we train for and we're always glad to assist," says Commander Chuck Mitchell.

But Mitchell actually says he hopes they don't find her. He says, "Hopefully we won't find her. If we find her, that means that foul play has been in place. Hopefully, she's gone some place and just hasn't contacted anybody."

But if they do find Tara, the team hopes she will be alive. Mitchell says, "Each one of my team members will have medical equipment, in case we find her and she's alive, we can treat her on site until the ambulance can get there and they can transport her out."

Team Member Chuck Spencer says, "It would nice to find her alive, I'm hoping she may have wandered somewhere, gone somewhere with a friend and just not called."

The team will leave early Wednesday morning and search for three days. "I'm always glad to help out, we've been training for this for years," says Mitchell. Training they hope will pay off and bring Tara back home.

If you have any information about Tara's whereabouts, call the anonymous tip line at 912-386-2564.

http://www.walb.com/

Cadaver Dogs Search for Missing Georgia Teacher

Updated: 11/2/2005  By Raymond Ruda  WMAZ

MACON, GA -- Irwin County Sheriff Donnie Youghn says cadaver dogs are searching ponds and the area around Tara Grinstead's home. This is the first time cadaver dogs were brought out.

Search and rescue crews are also searching the south part of the county from 129 to highway 90 on horse, foot, four-wheeler and by air.

It's been nine days of searching, hoping and waiting, but family members and friends of missing teacher Tara Grinstead still have no answers. The last time they saw Tara was Saturday, October 23 at a friend's home in Ocilla. Tara's originally from Hawkinsville.

So far authorities have not released any suspects or leads in the case, which friends say makes the days seem even longer. Still, they're not giving up.

"Our school is very like, it is the center of our community," said Jenny Abercrombie, who works at Irwin High.

But Irwin County High School is still missing someone at its center, 11th grade teacher Tara Grinstead.

"The students love her. You can tell their emotions are raw, and they're confused somewhat and they're missing her," Abercrombie said.

Students and a community still searching and wondering.

Abercrombie added, "I'm getting to the point to where so many days have passed I just don't know what to think anymore."

And they really don't even know where to start looking, because friends say Tara was always on the go.

"She had her pageants, she had her schooling, she had people in every county," says her neighbor Missy Davis.

"She had one class in Waycross, and she had one class in Tifton, throughout the summer she'd been on the VSU campus," Abercrombie said.

"We know that there is someone out there that has possibly seen her, maybe talked to her, just anybody who can give us any leads to find her," said Davis.

Until that day comes, those who know Tara ask you to just keep her in mind.

"She is worth any effort that anyone would put forth to help us try to find her. She is an awesome person, and she gives so much of herself," said Abercrombie.

Now a community is giving back.

"Tara come home. I want you to know we are not going to sleep well until we know you are back at your house. Tara we miss you, we love you, and we want you back," Abercrombie added.

If you have any information about Tara Grinstead, here are some phone numbers you can call:

Anonymous Tip Line: (912) 386-2564: Not connected to police but a private investigator hired by Tara's family.

Police Tip Line: (229) 468-TIPS

Community Command Center: (229) 468-0667: Call with information or if you'd like to volunteer to help with the search.

http://www.firstcoastnews.com/

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Tara Grinstead is a special person

November 2, 2005

Ocilla-- Friends and family say Tara Grinstead is a lovable person and respected member of the Ocilla community. She's a devoted and well-liked 11th grade History teacher at Irwin County High School.

We've seen her picture and watched video of her singing in beauty pageants, but today Tara Grinstead's best friend, Maria Hulett told us that Tara is much more than a pretty face.

Thirty-year-old Tara Grinstead's passion for history didn't end at her classroom door. She loves to visit museums and historical buildings, and she even has a dog named Dolly Madison and a cat named Herman Talmadge.

She was Miss Tifton 1999 and loves to sing. She did an interview with the Fun Channel in Tifton before leaving for Miss Georgia. "I've worked on my interview, exercised, shopped for lots of clothes and just tried to get prepared for my week at Miss Georgia," she said in the interview.

She's still involved with pageantry, coaching young competitors. The night she disappeared, she had helped contestants with their hair and make-up for a pageant in Fitzgerald.

"She loved doing hair and make-up for girls in pageant, and she loved going to pageants to see them because she was a pageant queen," said Dana Wilder.

"She always taught me to never give up, be confident and determined," says Lindy Luke.

She's a member of First Baptist church of Hawkinsville, where she grew up. She was a cheerleader at Hawkinsville High School and then went on to Middle Georgia College to become a teacher. Grinstead got her Masters in Education from Valdosta State University in 2003 and is working on her doctorate. She moved to Ocilla to teach at Irwin County High in 1998.

At the time of the Fun Channel interview, she had just completed her first year of teaching. "I'm an 11th grade history teacher at Irwin County High School. I also have a cheerleading squad of Junior Varsity cheerleaders. I just completed my first year of teaching, and I love every bit of it," Grinstead said in the interview.

She also works as a part time administrator at Irwin County Middle School. Friends say Grinstead loves to exercise, drink Diet Coke with grenadine, collects Barbies, and loves 80's music, especially Bon Jovi.

She is single, her friends said she had recently broken up with a boyfriend. She was never married. Her friends says she is happy, compassionate and kind, and they miss her very much.

Tara's best friend Maria Hulett asks you to continue to pray for Tara, and begs anyone with information to call authorities.

Tara Grinstead also helped coach the cheerleading squad at Irwin County High School, and many of her students are helping search for her.

http://www.walb.com/

Search finds no clues about missing teacher

Published on: 11/03/05  By BILL MONTGOMERY  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

There have been almost daily searches by foot, air and horseback, around the south-central Georgia town of Ocilla for a popular high school history teacher and former beauty queen who vanished Oct. 24.

There have been concerned hallway hugs between faculty and students alike at Irwin County High School, and a public prayer vigil Oct. 25 at the Irwin County Courthouse. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has made inquiries and a $30,000 reward has been raised by the community, but there has been no sign of Tara Grinstead, 30, a teacher at Irwin County High for the past eight years and Miss Tifton in 1999.

"We're a small community and this has really touched home because it is something you read about happening elsewhere. This is someone with a tremendous, magnetic personality, and the kids just love her," said Irwin High School principal Bobby Conner.

"I had her for a teacher last year in 11th grade," said student Mandy Dean, who wears a photo of Grinstead made into a pin on her sweater. "She was nice, really sweet."

A native of Hawkinsville, Grinstead graduated from Hawkinsville High School in 1993, had a master's degree in history from Valdosta State University, and was still taking courses toward a doctoral degree in education administration there, said Grinstead's older sister, Anita Gattis of Hawkinsville. "I believe she wanted to become a school principal or teach college history," Gattis said. "Tara was the kind who could do anything."

She and her sister communicated by e-mail almost daily, Gattis said, and she did not believe Grinstead was having any problems "other than the stress of teaching all day and going to school four nights a week."

On the Saturday she was last seen, Oct. 22, Grinstead helped contestants in the Miss Sweet Potato Pageant in Fitzgerald and later attended a barbecue with friends.

She was last seen leaving that gathering and was reported missing when she didn't appear at school the following Monday.

Her car was in the driveway of her Ocilla home. Both car and house had been locked, and her purse and keys were gone, said GBI spokesman John Bankhead.

"It was out of the ordinary for her not to have contacted somebody that she was not coming in, so it doesn't look good from that standpoint," Bankhead said.

"Generally speaking there was nothing to indicate . . . any kind of foul play, nothing to indicate there was some kind of violent struggle," he said.

http://www.ajc.com/

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Suspects in missing woman case

Posted on Thu, Nov. 03, 2005  By Tim Sturrock  TELEGRAPH STAFF WRITER

OCILLA - After ten days of investigation, Ocilla Police Chief Billy Hancock said authorities have no suspects in the disappearance of Irwin County High School teacher Tara Grinstead.

"I don't feel like we're making any headway to calling someone a suspect and ruling everybody else out," he said.

"Certainly, anyone that had any acquaintances with her is someone that they're trying to question and get information from."

He said everyone has cooperated in the investigation.

Hancock said authorities are still considering any possibility and getting leads in the case, but no solid leads.

"We're still getting people saying, 'Have you checked down at this barn? Have you checked down at this two-lane path? We've seen buzzards circling, go check that,' " he said.

Grinstead was last seen Oct. 22 at 11 p.m. She was reported missing two days later when she didn't show up for her job as an 11th-grade history teacher.

Her keys and pocketbook were not at her house, but her cell phone and car were, Hancock said.

There was no clear sign of a struggle, Hancock said.

But he said investigators still don't know what happened to Grinstead any more than they did more than a week ago.

He said progress has been made in searching areas of the county. But he said searches have not turned up any trace of Grinstead. He said it will be more than a week before a search of the county will be over.

Searches have been conducted every day in various ways including on foot, by horse, with helicopters and with all-terrain vehicles; Wednesday, cadaver dogs were used, Hancock said.

"That's not because of any indication that we're looking for a body. We're looking for any possibility," he said.

Irwin County Sheriff Donnie Youghn said once the land search of the county is complete, searches will be based on leads and tips.

Hancock said the community is not losing hope.

"I think they're physically getting tired. Emotionally, I think their hopes are just as high as they were in the beginning," he said.

"Certainly, the enthusiasm of the community has been on and on and on."

Grinstead's sister Anita Gattis said she believes Grinstead was abducted but will come home.

"I have no doubt that Tara is alive. We just have to get her home," she said. "I know what she's made of and she's a survivor."

Her father has hired what she called a "private recovery agent," who she said is trying to find Grinstead.

She said the agent isn't as concerned with trespassing and civil rights as police or GBI, and so far has found new information, but she wouldn't say what that is.

So far, at least $25,000 has been raised for information leading to Grinstead's whereabouts, she said.

Gattis said anyone with information can leave an anonymous tip if they call (912) 386-2564.

http://www.macon.com

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No Significant Clues in Missing Teacher Case

http://tinyurl.com/dsl47

by Seamus McGraw

This link will take you to CrimeLibrary. They have a long and detailed article about the case, and significant points of interest that have not been in the news reports.

Here are the chapter headings:

-Tara Grinstead on Emotional Roller Coaster

-Tara Grinstead Publicity Mixed Blessing

-Tara Grinstead's State of Mind

-Search for Tara Grinstead Involves Entire Community

-Beauty Queen & Teacher Tara Grinstead Goes Missing

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Beautiful, Beloved, Missing: Search Intensifies For Teacher

Psychics Join Searchers In Irwin County

POSTED: November 5, 2005

OCILLA -- Authorities in Ocilla have stepped up their search for a popular teacher and beauty queen who has been missing for nearly two weeks.

Nearly 200 people, along with search dogs and psychics planned to join the search Saturday in the south Georgia town.

Friends said that Tara Grinstead, 30, had attended a beauty pageant in Fitzgerald the night she disappeared. She was reported missing Oct. 24. Officials with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that her car was in her driveway, but her purse and keys were missing.

Authorities questioned her former boyfriend and a student who recently broke into her home, but they have not named any official suspects. "We don't have any evidence that suggests foul play," said Irwin County Sheriff Donnie Youghn.

The community has held six prayer vigils for the popular history teacher.

"All the guys in our school like Miss Tara," said student Emily Lavender. "She is beautiful; she is somebody everybody wants to be like."

An $80,000 reward was being offered for information leading to Grinstead's safe return.

http://www.wsbtv.com

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http://www.11alive.com/news/news_art...?storyid=71522

Town Searches For Missing Teacher

Reported by Duffie Dixon  Web Editor: Bryan Toussaint  Last Modified: 11/6/2005 10:23:27 AM

The family of a woman who disappeared two weeks ago has now offered an $80,000 reward in the hopes of finding her.

The family of Tara Grinstead has also hired a private investigator to look for clues in the case.

The 30-year-old teacher was last seen on October 22 as she headed home after helping contestants in the Miss Sweet Potato pageant in Ocilla, Ga. Grinstead's car was found two days later, police said. It was unlocked. Her cell phone was still inside, but police said her keys and purse were gone.

"We want to think that maybe Tara left with somebody that she knew," said Irwin County Sheriff Donnie Vaughn.

Grinstead's students and co-workers have set up a Web site. Her relatives and even complete strangers have helped distribute thousands of flyers around Ocilla in the attempt to find the highly respected and well-liked 11th grade teacher.

There are no solid leads or suspects in the investigation, police said. Detectives are urging anyone with information to contact the Iwrin County Sheriff's Office.

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--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://www.macon.com/mld/macon/13094144.htmPosted on Sun, Nov. 06, 2005

'An open wound': Community desperate to find missing teacher

By Tim Sturrock  TELEGRAPH STAFF WRITER

OCILLA - When Kenyatta McDonald's house burned down this summer and she lost everything, it was Tara Grinstead who made sure the high school senior had what she needed.

"I was mainly worried about school and how I was going to pay for things because we were struggling," she said.

Grinstead bought her things she wanted and things she needed, such as clothes and shoes.

"She was right there, even if I needed a hug or a shoulder to cry on she was there," McDonald said.

This year, she saw Grinstead three times a day - before school and on the way to her trigonometry and word-processing classes.

"It's really been tearing me up inside. I'm used to walking past her classroom every day, speaking with her and giving her a hug or something," said McDonald, who took Grinstead's history class last year. "Now I can't see her. I don't know where she is or what's wrong with her."

Grinstead is the small-town beauty queen and confidant of her students at Irwin County High School in Ocilla. Her disappearance two weeks ago has brought national attention to this town of 3,300.

"This is a small community. This is really shock," Irwin High principal Bobby Conner said. "We all expect this type of thing to happen in Macon or Atlanta, but this is hard for us to swallow."

She's a teacher who bought students prom dresses when they couldn't afford them. The students paid her back over time. But she put her students in a fake jail when they didn't pay fake taxes with their "Grinstead dollars" - part of her lesson on taxation without representation.

"She's just been so close to students in her classes," Conner said. "Any type of kid she could talk with, the A-plus students who are basically care free and those kids who are at risk."

Sixteen days have passed since Grinstead was last seen or heard from about 11 p.m. Oct. 22 at a former Irwin County superintendent's house, where she and some friends cooked out and watched a football game. Friends and family tried to call her that next day, but they couldn't reach her. Monday, Oct. 24, she was reported missing when she didn't show up for work. It was unlike her not to call.

What investigators say they have found so far leaves a lot to the imagination.

The clothes she wore Saturday night and her cell phone were found at her home. Her car was outside, unlocked, which her sister, Anita Gattis said was unusual. Her pocketbook and keys were gone, police said.

Grinstead is single and lived with her dog, Dolley Madison, and her cat, Herman Talmadge. There was no clear sign of a struggle at her home, police said. A broken lamp was found inside her bedroom, and her alarm clock was found under her bed.

Authorities have specifically mentioned the possibility that she was abducted or that she left with someone she knew and something happened between the two of them. A GBI investigator said they are still considering all possibilities and have plenty to do in the case.

Irwin County Sheriff Donnie Youghn said there are no suspects in the case.

Youghn said that family, friends, colleagues, her former boyfriend of six years and anyone else who could give them information about her life have been questioned. A man arrested in March on the charge that he banged on the windows of her home also has been questioned several times, Youghn said.

"I don't think anybody has been ruled out (as a possible suspect) yet because I don't think they have anything pointing to one particular person," he said.

Ocilla Police Chief Bill Hancock had similar views.

"Certainly anyone that had any acquaintance with her is someone that they're trying to question and find out information from," Hancock said. "We certainly don't want to call anyone a suspect at this point. I wish we could. I wish we did. I wish we had a suspect."

By the end of this week, the search will have covered all 358 square miles of the county. Volunteers and law officers have searched on foot, on horseback, by helicopter and with cadaver dogs but haven't found a trace of her, said Youghn, whose office is leading the search.

Authorities have also said the tips they are receiving haven't been solid. Youghn said as time passes it becomes more likely that foul play was involved.

"Let me put it this way: When time has gone by as long as this thing has, it really takes our hope away," he said.

FALLING IN LOVE

Grinstead didn't move to Ocilla intending to stay, her stepmother, Connie Grinstead, said.

During her senior year at Georgia Southwestern State in Americus, she did her student teaching at Irwin County High. She fell in love with the town and its people. When the school system offered her a job eight years ago, she accepted, her stepmother said.

Connie Grinstead said her stepdaughter loves history and loves helping people, but there were other reasons for her career choice.

"She just liked young people. She always wanted to be a good role model for them," she said.

Tara Grinstead has a lot of goals - one is to become a school administrator, her stepmother said.

"Tara always has had dreams and goals. She was always striving to do more, to be better," she said. "She didn't expect it to be handed to her. She was willing to pay the price and put out whatever effort was necessary."

Lately, she had been working on her doctorate in education at Valdosta State University and working part time as an administrator at Irwin County Middle School.

And though she is serious about her goals, Grinstead has a soft side. She collected Barbie dolls and episodes of "The Dukes of Hazzard." She also is a history buff who took and collected photos of old county courthouses and named her pets after historical figures. She talked less and less about having children as she focused on her career, her stepmother said.

'LIKE A SECOND MOTHER'

Grinstead also loves pageants, and she fulfilled a goal of competing in the Miss Georgia Pageant after she became Miss Tifton in 1999, Connie Grinstead said.

Pageants gave Grinstead self-esteem and confidence, and so she encouraged her students to do them, too, her stepmother said.

"It has helped her so much in her life that she knew it could benefit other young ladies in the same way," she said.

Fellow teacher Sheila Wynn said Grinstead told all the girls in the Miss Red and Black Pageant, the high school pageant she coordinated, that they were beautiful. She meant it.

"Whether it was a girl's personality or something in the radiation of their smiles. She found something that would give those girls' confidence," Wynn said. "She'd say 'Oh, she has the prettiest smile,' or 'I just love her eyes.' "

"A lot of them say 'I never would have done that if she hadn't encouraged me,' " Wynn said.

It was Grinstead's enthusiasm and encouragement that convinced LaTressa Moses to begin cheerleading.

Moses, Irwin County High Class of 2004, said she told Grinstead she doubted she could be a cheerleader because she wasn't an experienced gymnast.

She said, 'Just be yourself,' " the South Georgia College sophomore said. "She always gave me that determination."

Moses said even after she graduated she continued to seek out Grinstead for advice and encouragement.

"I call her and she kind of uplifts me and helps," Moses said. "Miss Grinstead, we always told her she is like a second mother."

'WHY HAVEN'T THEY FOUND ME?'

Moses said she hasn't lost hope that Grinstead is still alive, though friends have asked her about it.

"'It's been (two weeks), how can you have hope?' I told them I'm not going to give up hope," she said.

Grinstead's friend, Maria Hulett, said not knowing what has happened to Grinstead has been especially difficult.

"If someone dies, you have a funeral and you grieve. This is like an open wound," she said.

She said the disappearance has spawned rumors in the town. Several rumors that Grinstead has been found have circulated. Some rumors have been about who may be involved.

"It's not deliberate or meaning to be hateful. It's not meant to hurt anyone," she said. People are desperate for answers, she said.

Grinstead's sister, Anita Gattis, said what is hard for her is that Grinstead may not know people are looking for her.

"I hope she's in a place that she's safe and she's sheltered and her basic needs are being taken care of. I do worry that she thinks 'No one cares. Why haven't they found me?' "

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http://www.crimelibrary.com/news/ori...g_2_weeks.html

Tara Grinstead Missing for 2 Weeks

By Steve Huff

Ocilla, GA (Crime Library) -Autumn comes slowly to Georgia. By the end of October nights are cooling, but many trees still hold greedily onto their green. Sometime around Halloween, though, the first frost might fall. Soon thereafter, as November moves in and the daylight hours dwindle, leaves start to change.

The further south you move, the less likely you are to see stark gold and crimson slashes in the trees. For one thing, South Georgia is home to a great many pines, green year round, sending out the whispers when the wind blows whether it is summer or winter.

The people searching in and around Ocilla, GA for 30-year-old Tara Grinstead, a former beauty queen and well-liked high school teacher at Irwin County High School, had no time to notice the change of seasons. Saturday, November 5 ended with no sign of Tara Grinstead, and set a grim milestone  the former Miss Tifton, GA, 1999 had been missing for two weeks.

News of the pretty history teacher's vanishing spread slowly at first. The Sunday after she vanished, October 23, her mother grew worried, and even called Tara's neighbors and asked them to check on her. Still  everyone has an off-day, even Tara Grinstead. In the months since she'd broken up with long-time boyfriend Marcus T. Harper, a former Ocilla, GA Police Officer and military veteran, Tara had experienced more ups and downs than those close to her had ever seen. After all, she'd been with Harper for 6 years.

After Harper's turn in the military, though, many around him seemed to feel something about him changed. Whatever the change was, it appeared to be the end of his relationship with Grinstead.

Tara Grinstead, it is said, was devastated by the breakup. More than once she had an uncharacteristic emotional breakdown. A policeman she'd seen a few times from Perry, GA, once came to visit her at Irwin County, High.

By the close of Saturday, November 5, Tara's past problems with some of the men in her life were perhaps public knowledge in a way the very private Grinstead would never have wanted.

Much had been made in news reports on various cable networks of Anthony Vickers, the 20-year-old former student of Grinstead's who had apparently developed a fixation on her. At one point, Vickers had been arrested for pounding on the door to Grinstead's residence. Searches were done on property owned by the Vickers family in Wray, GA on November 4, to no avail.

In a move perhaps considered curious by some, the Grinstead family also hired private investigators to assist in the search. That meant that in addition to law enforcement volunteers from all over Georgia and surrounding states, as well as civilian searchers from Irwin County, the private detectives were going back over territory supposedly already covered by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Irwin County authorities.

According to Tara's sister, Anita Gattis, the hired investigators had, by November 4, discovered some interesting new clues about what may have happened to Tara Grinstead the night of October 22. Speaking with Albany, GA NBC affiliate, WALB, Gattis said, "Her vehicle was unlocked. That's very uncharacteristic of Tara. She always locks it, always, always, always. There's some question about the position of the seats. She was short, 5'3". That's a big red flag..."

Some wondered about an unnamed juvenile who had once been in Grinstead's homeroom at Irwin County High. After the history teacher received a series of threatening phone calls a trace on her phone determined he was the source. It is unclear what measures were taken, but he was moved from her class.

Friday, November 4 probably saw one of the more dramatic developments to date in the ongoing search for Tara Grinstead in an interview with CBS anchor for "The Early Show," Hannah Storm, Anita Gattis revealed that though Grinstead had sought to re-unite with former love Marcus Harper, they had fought prior to Tara's disappearance:

"They had had a very bad argument, I just found out, several days before she went missing, concerning an 18-year-old that he was dating. My sister did not think that (the 18-year-old's) parents would approve of a 30-year-old dating an 18-year-old. I'm told that she threatened to tell the parents, and they had a very heated argument over this."

Gattis also mentioned that Harper had hired a lawyer. When CrimeLibrary.com tried to speak with Harper earlier in the week, his father said that he would not comment on the advice of a lawyer, and Harper's father declined to speak as well.

The mystery continued to unfold. The night of November 5, Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA reported that the search in Irwin County would continue for at least 7 more days.

Though there were these curious developments in the second week of the search for Tara Grinstead, there were still no known sightings of the former Miss Tifton, nor any concrete evidence as to her fate. Only a hint came from a source close to the investigation as the third week began  a hint that the answer to the question of what happened to Tara Grinstead could be close:

Some things were found today that would lead you to believe that Tara could be found soon. I wish I could elaborate but I can't...

The same source expressed a concern that had troubled very few in the area before... that none of the men questioned by authorities about their relationship to Tara might be involved. That she might have fallen prey to a stranger, or someone with whom she had only a tangential acquaintance.

Perhaps in a small city like Ocilla, that fear embodied an idea of the worst sort of fate for a missing person - that they fell into the hands of a random stranger.

Steve Huff can be reached via the contact form at his weblog, http://www.planethuff.com/darkside. For daily updates on the search for Tara Grinstead, see www.findtara.com.

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Search for Missing Teacher

Posted: November 7, 2005

OCILLA, Ga. (AP) Authorities and volunteers continue to search for a popular high school teacher who has been missing for two weeks.

Tara Grinstead, 30, was last seen Saturday, Oct. 22 at a cookout. Friends and family tried calling her the next day but could not reach her.

She was reported missing the following Monday when she did not show up for work. Since then, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has joined local authorities in the search, which has also brought national attention to this south Georgia town of about 3,300.

But so far, authorities have found few clues as to what may have happened to Grinstead.

The clothes she wore Saturday night and her cell phone were found at her home. Her car was outside and unlocked, which her sister, Anita Gattis, said was unusual. Her pocketbook and keys were gone, police said.

Grinstead is single and lives with her dog and cat. There was no clear sign of a struggle at her home, police said. But a broken lamp was found in her bedroom and her alarm clock was found under her bed.

It is possible she was kidnapped, authorities have said. But Irwin County Sheriff Donnie Youghn said there are no suspects in the case.

Youghn said family, friends, colleagues and Grinstead's former boyfriend have been questioned. A man arrested in March for banging on the windows of her home also has been questioned several times, Youghn said.

``I don't think anybody has been ruled out yet because I don't think they have anything pointing to one particular person,'' he said.

Volunteers and law enforcement officers have searched on foot, on horseback, by helicopter and with cadaver dogs but have not found a trace of Grinstead, said Youghn, whose office is leading the search. Authorities have also said the tips they are receiving have not been solid.

A reward of $80,000 is being offered for Grinstead's safe return.

But Youghn says that as time passes, it becomes more likely that foul play was involved in her disappearance.

``Let me put it this way,'' Youghn said. ``When time has gone by as long as this thing has, it really takes our hope away.''

http://wsbradio.com/

Grinstead still missing

November 7, 2005

Ocilla -- A softball jersey found in Irwin County yesterday most likely did not belong to Tara Grinstead. That news coming today from the command post set up to help find the missing high school teacher.

Almost every square acre of Irwin County has now been seached, yielding no solid clues as to what happened to the 30-year old.

A private tip line has been established for information that may lead to Tara. That number is 912-386-2564.

http://www.walb.com/

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Woman's T-Shirt reportedly sent for testing

By Seamus McGraw

Ocilla, GA (Crime Library) - As the hunt for Tara Grinstead enters its third week, investigators over the weekend combed the shoreline and waters near Paradise Lake, looking for any clue to the young woman's fate or whereabouts, and recovered a woman's t-shirt.

Spokesmen for the Ocilla Police Department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation could not immediately be reached for comment. But according to sources familiar with the probe, authorities recovered the T-Shirt, an oversized garment emblazoned with the words "Irwin County Woman's Softball." And have forwarded it to a crime lab for testing.

"It's the kind of thing you might sleep in," said one source familiar with the probe. It is known that Tara Grinstead, who vanished from her home, apparently without a struggle, on Oct. 22, had a similar t-shirt, though sources believe hers was a different color.

Investigators have also reportedly recovered a necklace Grinstead had been seen wearing the night she disappeared. It was found over the weekend on the floor of her home, and had apparently been overlooked in earlier searches, a source said.

So far, authorities remain baffled about the nature and circumstances of the 30-year-old high school history teacher and former beauty queen's disappearance. Grinstead vanished on the night of Oct. 22, which was the night of the annual Sweet Potato Festival and beauty pageant that Grinstead had attended. According to authorities, Grinstead left the pageant and went to have dinner at the home of the former local school superintendent and his family. She was last seen around 11 p.m.

She was reported missing Monday morning when she failed to turn up at school. Police responded to her home and found little out of place. The clothes she wore that night were found in the home, as was her cellular phone, which according to sources familiar with her habits, she never left behind.

Investigators have been combing her computer hard drives, both from home and Irwin County High School where she taught 11th grade, they have interviewed scores of people, including long time friend and confident Capt. Heath Dykes of the Perry Police Department, Anthony Vickers, a former student who was charged with a disorderly person's offence after he allegedly banged repeatedly on the school teacher's door, and her former long time boyfriend, Marcus Harper. Friends and others familiar with Grinstead's history say she had been on "emotional roller coaster" for months following her breakup with Harper, and investigators had been hoping that he and the other men in her life could provide some insight into her state of mind at the time of her disappearance. Authorities have also been talking to the son of her landlord, and to a local man, described by neighbors, as suffering from emotional problems.

So far, however, the investigation has yielded few results, and while family members and friends privately acknowledge that they are beginning to fear the worse, authorities are holding steadfast to their insistence that her disappearance remains a missing person's case and there is, as yet, no evidence of foul play.

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One Aspect of the Search for Tara Grinstead Has Been Completed, But the Probe Continues

By Seamus McGraw

After nearly two weeks of efforts combing nearly 400,000 acres of fields, swamps and scrubland authorities in rural Irwin County have not found any sign of Tara, although articles of clothing and jewelry have been found throughout the county and have been sent to Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).

The probe continues, and investigators still have hope of finding her or some clue to her fate.

"It's actually two separate items," said John Bankhead, a spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the state agency assisting in the search for Grinstead. "The Sheriff's Department was in charge of the search of the county...and yesterday they completed the last grid...and so the physical search...is completed. The missing person's investigation by the Ocilla Police Department with us assisting is continuing."

Family members say they will continue to search with volunteers, among them teachers, for Grinstead. A private investigator hired by Grinstead's family will also join in the search for the 30-year-old who vanished on the night of Oct. 22, the night of the annual Sweet Potato Festival and beauty pageant that Grinstead had attended. According to authorities, Grinstead left the pageant and went to have dinner at the home of the former local school superintendent and his family. She was last seen around 11 p.m.

She was reported missing Monday morning when she failed to turn up at school. Police responded to her home and found little out of place. Her car was parked in the driveway, though the driver's seat seemed to have been pushed farther back than the diminutive Grinstead would have preferred. The clothes she wore that night were found in the home, buried under a pile of other clothing. Her cellular phone was also recovered at her home, though sources familiar with her habits, say it was highly unusual that she left it behind.

T-Shirt, Glove, Still Being Tested

So far, authorities have been unable to determine whether any of that is significant and investigators have turned up few other leads in the case. A women's t-shirt, emblazoned with the logo Irwin County Women's Softball and similar to several such garments owned by Grinstead have been sent to a crime lab for testing, though so far, authorities have not been able to link the shirt to Grinstead. "I don't know that there's any connection and it's doubtful that there may be," Bankhead told Crime Library. Bankhead declined to comment on a latex glove recovered in Grinstead's front yard on day one of the investigation. That glove has also been sent for testing, sources say, though so far, that too, has failed to yield any conclusive evidence about its origin.

Meanwhile, investigators continue to quiz those closest to Grinstead hoping to learn new details that could help locate the woman or at least help them determine what happened to the well-liked 11th grade history teacher. Among those quizzed is her ex boyfriend, Marcus Harper, a former Ocilla police officer and Army veteran of the Afghan and Iraq campaigns who now serves as an independent contractor in Iraq. Authorities have also interviewed Capt. Heath Dykes, a Perry police officer and long time friend and confidant both of Grinstead and her family, as well as Anthony Vickers, a 20 year old former student who was once arrested after pounding on Grinstead's door.

All of the men have been cooperating with authorities and none have been named as suspects. Although her family and many of her friends believe she was abducted, with no significant clues to Grinstead's whereabouts or condition, authorities don't even know whether a crime has been committed. But that hasn't dulled the buzzing speculation on the Internet and on cable television news channels, speculation that has begun to turn this once close knit community into a hotbed of suspicion where gossip and innuendo often inaccurate- are frequently traded as fact.

Innuendo and Gossip Complicate Probe

It was that rampant speculation, sources say, that prompted attorney Thomas Pajadas to allow his client, Harper, to be interviewed earlier this week by Fox News commentator Greta Van Sustern, a decision that might be considered risky in the superheated atmosphere of the Grinstead probe but which Pajadas seems to have believed was necessary to counter what he took to be unfounded speculation and misinformation circulating about his client.

In the interview, Harper, who was shot in profile reportedly in part as a safety precaution because of his job as an independent contractor who has worked in Iraq,challenged Internet reports that he and Grinstead had argued publicly just days before her disappearance, an argument which allegedly centered on women Harper was said to have been seeing. He said that he had last seen Grinstead about 9 a.m. on Oct. 14 when the woman, who by all accounts was deeply distressed over their breakup, turned up at his house. Harper said that Grinstead had threatened to commit suicide, though after a short interruption in the taping, Harper added that Grinstead had returned later that day and asked him for a hug, apparently indicating that it would be the last time.

Sources close to Grinstead have acknowledged that the young woman was "on an emotional roller coaster," following the break up, but say they saw no evidence that she was suicidal, noting that on Oct. 14, Grinstead had left Harper's house, spent some time in a tanning bed and then went for a pleasant visit with relatives.

Authorities investigating the case say the Internet, where speculation sometimes ossifies into a facsimile of fact, may be complicating their investigation somewhat. But they also acknowledge that they continue to mine those Web logs and Internet sites for potential leads and to identify and locate people they can speak with including friends, associates and paramours of those people they've already interviewed.

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Police search for missing teacher called off

OCILLA, Ga. Authorities in Georgia have called off the search for a popular high school teacher who has been missing for more than two weeks.

Investigators don't know what happened to 30-year-old Tara Grinstead, who was last seen October 22nd.

Cadaver dogs, horses, helicopters, four-wheelers and people on foot have searched every day since the teacher was reported missing. More than 50 public safety agencies have helped.

The clothes Grinstead wore the day she was last seen and her cellphone were found at her home. Police say her unlocked car was outside, but her purse and keys were gone.

Grinstead's sister says civilian searchers will continue looking for the woman.

Posted 11/9/05

www.crimelibrary.com

New Phase in Search for Tara Grinstead

By Marilyn Bardsley

Ocilla, GA (Crime Library) - Tara Grinstead's family and the Ocilla community was shocked when recent headlines suggested that the search for Tarahad been called off. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The reality is that the intensive 2-week initial effort to search the 358 square miles of Irwin County involving 50 law enforcement and safety agencies using helicopters, planes, ATVs, horses, etc. was completed.

However, a number of focused search activities are on-going. Volunteers are signing up for searches on weekends and law enforcement is searching based upon the specific leads it receives.

A considerable amount of attention has been focused on a latex glove the kind used in medical, forensic and many other applications found on Tara Grinstead's front lawn shortly after she had gone missing and before the forensic experts from Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) had examined the premises. The latex glove appeared fresh and its presence was difficult to explain. Dr. Larry Gattis, Tara's brother-in-law, believes that GBI will make an announcement on the glove in coming days.

Tara Grinstead's family has hired a private "agent." Connie Grinstead, Tara's stepmother, explained to Court TV's Crime Library that the private agent was hired "to help us in the search for Tara. We need all the help we can get." To dispel any suggestion that the family was not happy with the efforts of law enforcement, she added, "GBI is doing a wonderful job."

Anonymous tips can be placed to the private agent by calling 1-912-386-2564. A reward of $80,000 is being offered.

One recent rumor that is being run to ground is that an unidentified man had called Tarasome 22 times in one day and had professed his love repeatedly. It is unclear at this point whether any such individual exists, but if he does, law enforcement is sure to want to speak to him.

Tara Grinstead, 30, is a stunningly attractive, gifted and dedicated 11th grade history teacher at the Irwin County High School. She lives in Ocilla, GA with her German Shepard Dolly Madison and her cat Herman Tallmadge. On Saturday, Oct. 22, she attended a beauty pageant and then had dinner with some friends. She returned home shortly after 11 p.m.and has not been heard from since.

Tips can also be made to the Ocilla Police Department, 1-220-468-TIPS (8477)

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Disappearance of Tara Grinstead Divides City

by Marilyn Bardsley

OCILLA, GA (Crime Library) - Tara Grinstead's students and friends are gathering at her home in Ocilla today with cards, and banners and maybe even a couple of prayers. It's not a celebration, though today is Tara Grinstead's 31st birthday. It's a memorial to a mystery.

No one knows why she is not home in Ocilla, GA to celebrate her birthday. All anyone knows for certain is that her disappearance has left a deep hole in the community, and a stranger, peering in that crevice where Tara used to be can see the first cracks of a deep, subterranean crevice that threatens to rip this close knit rural community apart.

The vivacious high school history teacher and former beauty queen was last seen on Sat. Oct. 22 after returning home from a dinner with some friends. Officially, she is a missing person.

Since her disappearance there was an enormous community effort to locate Tara: some 50 government agencies and scores of civilian volunteers combed over 370 square miles of rural Irwin County using the most sophisticated search techniques available. A web site was created to provide news of the search and Tara's family members tirelessly provided interviews to the media. There was a palpable spirit of cohesion and cooperation that infused the small city of Ocilla.

Perhaps it was there all the time, those fault lines that divide this tiny city, but no one noticed because Ocilla and the surrounding communities have been consumed by the search efforts and the wave of media attention. But last week when the intense Irwin County grid-by-grid search was completed without any sign of Tara and the first wave of media fervor subsided, something changed.

Ocilla no longer had the excitement of the media spotlight and the feverish urgency of the searchers to talk about. Instead, its citizens became aware of a handful of people upon whom suspicion had settled, men with whom the stunningly attractive high school teacher had relationships of one sort or another. Initially, the media had focused on compelling version of the story of Tara's life, a tale of a former beauty queen had been packaged to the media and perhaps the community as a whole as a woman who had faithfully carried a torch for six years for a former Ocilla police officer who after 9-11 fought for his country in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then, so the story went, when the boyfriend came home, he and Tara realized that they had grown apart and that marriage was not in the offing. It was a story that in many respects touched a nerve in the greater American psyche, a bittersweet microcosm of similar stories that are playing out all over America in this time of war.

But as attention in fact suspicion began to suddenly focus on Marcus Harper, the boyfriend, the various parts of the community took sides. Was Marcus responsible for Tara's disappearance? Many in Ocilla believe so, despite what should be an air-tight alibi on the part of Marcus Harper (not to mention that there does not appear to be any credible evidence that he was anywhere near Tara around the time she disappeared). Marcus was with friends and relatives for the entire night and into the wee hours of the morning during a time that many people believe that Tara vanished. Furthermore the former Ocilla policeman and soldier with a good reputation was in the presence of other another Ocilla policeman and a game warden during the times he wasn't visible to Saturday night crowds in a popular tavern. How could it be that the word of two law enforcement officials regarding the whereabouts of a former officer is challenged by the community?

While people close to Marcus Harper circled the wagons and his friends took to the message boards to defend him, the community at large got another jolt. There was the possibility that the pretty teacher was not only having a difficult-to-explain relationship with another police officer but possibly a former student as well. The message boards, particularly the ones with heavy participation from Ocilla residents, went crazy over the weekend with strident accusations and scandalous speculation. There were even some who suggested that reports of the young woman's emotional upheaval, together with rumors that she had been feeling physically ill in the weeks before her death, might indicate that the young woman might have been with child. Of course there was no evidence to support that suggestion, in fact, according to those close enough to her to know not just her mental state but to judge the seasons of her body, Tara was menstruating at the time of her disappearance and tampon packages were found in her trash can at home after she vanished.

But such assertions have done little to quell the rumors. Into this volatile mixture, stir in allegations that the newly-identified other police officer in Tara's life, a Perry police captain, was married and that he was friends with the agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation who were in charge of investigating Tara's disappearance and the pot boils over. An official from the bureau denied that the captain had any significant relationship with the state authorities, agents who were called into help in the probe specifically to douse any smoldering suspicions about the local authorities' willingness and ability to thoroughly investigate their own.

The irony of this feeding frenzy that is beginning to divide the citizens of Ocilla is that Tara Grinstead may have left on her own volition. The young, ambitious teacher who aspired to be a school principal and worked very hard to establish herself as a role model for her students may have experienced an emotional melt-down in the weeks before she disappeared. The public persona she had crafted for herself was increasingly at odds with the commitments she had made academically and socially.

http://www.crimelibrary.com/news/ori..._tension1.html

Vigil held for missing teacher's birthday

November 14, 2005

Ocilla- Tara Grinstead disappeared October 22nd. In the following weeks, hundreds of law enforcement agents and volunteers scoured Irwin County looking for any sign of her.

The formal search is over, but investigators say they'll follow-up on any leads in the case.

Her family and friends will hold a birthday vigil for Tara at her house at seven Monday night in honor of her 31st birthday.

http://www.walb.com/Global/story.asp?S=4117382&nav=5kZQ

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Missing teacher's birthday celebrated

November 14, 2005

Ocilla- A tribute Monday night to missing teacher Tara Grinstead on her 31st birthday. It's been more than three weeks since friends and family last saw Grinstead, but they haven't given up hope.

Birthday balloons and banners decorate Tara's small home, but it's not a celebration. Grinstead is still missing.

"I don't know where she's at or what she's doing. I just hope she knows I have her in my heart on her birthday," says Tara's sister, Anita Gattis.

With candles in hand, Anita and nearly 200 other people in Ocilla honor her sister's birthday. "I have faith she's going to come back to us and she's going to unwrap the rest of her presents when she gets back," says Gattis.

"We will not stop hunting for Tara, searching for Tara, until we bring her home," says Tara's neighbor, Susan Oakley

Friends pray for the Irwin County teacher who disappeared 23 days ago. "If you can see this and keep her and not give her back to us, then you have thicker skin than any of us here have," says Oakley.

Prayer bags line the front of Tara's house. They light a path for Tara's way back home. "I wish she could be here to all we've done for her," says former student Kenyatta McDonald.

As a crowd listens to a CD of Tara singing, others decorate her doorstep with gifts and roses."This summer my house burned down. We lost everything. Ms. Tara was right there all the way. She got me everything I needed," says McDonald.

"She was a wonderful person and she would do anything for anybody," says former student Brett Walker.

While Tara's birthday is bittersweet, the community has a message for their friend, neighbor, and co-worker. "We're never going to stop looking for you. And you will be home and we will find you," says neighbor, Susan Oakley.

If you have any information about Tara Grinstead's disappearance, call the anonymous tip line at 229-468-TIPS.

http://www.walb.com/

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Search for Tara Grinstead May Go Beyond County, Known Friends

by Seamus McGraw

OCILLA, GA (Crime Library) - They're far from giving up hope, they say.

But as the friends and family of Tara Grinstead conclude the third week of their so far fruitless search for the missing high school teacher and beauty queen, they are slowly coming to the realization that the ultimate answer to the mystery of her disappearance may lay far outside the boundaries of the rural Georgia county she called home.

A source familiar with the law enforcement efforts and the family's private endeavors to find her told Crime Library that while everyone involved in the search remains committed to seeing it through to the end, they are becoming less optimistic that the missing woman will be found alive.

But they do plan to broaden their search, not just for Tara or physical evidence that might shed light on her fate, but also to identify people with whom she might have come in contact during her regular travels to and from her graduate studies and elsewhere in the region.

Tara, who would have turned 31 this week her birthday was marked by a subdued gathering of friends, students and co-workers at her home vanished Oct. 22, the night of the annual Sweet Potato Festival and beauty pageant that Grinstead had attended. According to authorities, Grinstead left the pageant and went to have dinner at the home of the former local school superintendent and his family. She was last seen around 11 p.m.

She was reported missing Monday morning when she failed to turn up at school. Police responded to her home and found little out of place. Her car was parked in the driveway, though the driver's seat seemed to have been pushed farther back than the diminutive Grinstead would have preferred. The clothes she wore that night were found in the home, buried under a pile of other clothing. Her cellular phone was also recovered at her home, though sources familiar with her habits, say it was highly unusual that she left it behind.

In the days immediately following her disappearance, the local authorities together with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation launched a massive manhunt, sending platoons of cops and volunteers out to scour the roughly 400,000 acres of Irwin County. Two weeks later, after every quadrant of the county had been searched, the official search was called off, though Tara's family and volunteers have continued to run their own search.

Ashes to Ashes

In the days since, there have been moments when the searchers believed they were close to finding an answer. Several days ago, for example, when a remote house outside of Ocilla burned to the ground, searchers thought that their worst fears might be realized. "The rumor was out that Tara had been found in the burned house," a source said. "They took cadaver dogs out there and they thought they were on the trail, they kept going to one spot in the house, and GBI went through the house, shovel by shovel, but didn't find anything."

As it turned out, the source said, "cadaver dogs are trained to identify body fluids, even long after they evaporated and (authorities concluded) that there had been a baby in the house at one time."

While authorities say they still have no evidence to suggest that Tara was the victim of foul play the probe officially remains a missing person's case there has been rampant speculation on the Net that Tara might have been abducted. Among others in her life, three men became the focus of much of the speculation on the Internet; Marcus Harper, the former Army Ranger who she dated for six years before an emotionally charged breakup last spring, Anthony Vickers, a 20-year-old former student who had once been arrested after pounding on her door, and Capt. Heath Dykes, a married police officer from nearby Perry with whom had enjoyed a close relationship. All have been cooperating with authorities.

Privately, sources familiar with the investigation say they are increasingly convinced that none of the men have any significant information about Tara's disappearance, and that it is even more unlikely that any of them had anything to do with it.

Challenging a report in the National Enquirer that "a married police officer," had called Tara some 20 times before her disappearance, the source said it would make sense that Dykes, who was privy to the emotional distress Tara had been suffering as a result of her breakup, would have repeatedly to reach the woman he regarded as a close friend and confident. In fact, though Tara was not officially reported missing until Monday the 24, several people had noticed her absence on Sunday and some, Dykes among them, had telephoned her home looking for her.

That same source said they also believe that it would have been impossible for Harper, who has provided a detailed and verified account of his time during the hours when Tara is believed to have vanished, to have had a hand in her disappearance.

And in strange twist, Vickers has also apparently found his way out from under the cloud of suspicion. According to the source, the young man received a frantic telephone call from a woman the other day. The woman was so emotional that Vickers couldn't understand her, and thought it might have been Tara. He immediately notified police who traced the call and found that it had been a wrong number dialed by an inarticulate and emotionally overwrought stranger. The coincidence was so bizarre the source said, and Vickers was so certain that the woman on the other of the phone was Tara, that the source and others are convinced that it could not possibly have been a ploy.

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TX team joins missing teacher search

November 21, 2005

Ocilla- A private search and recovery team called Texas EquuSearch is now looking for missing Ocilla school teacher Tara Grinstead.

The Texas Mounted Search and Recovery Team also assisted in the search for Natalee Holloway in Aruba. They are in Ocilla now, conducting ground searches.

The team is also offering a $10,000 reward. Tips should be called in to 1-877-270-9500. That is a toll free number.

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One Aspect of the Search for Tara Grinstead Has Been Completed, But the Probe Continues

by Seamus McGraw

OCILLA, GA (Crime Library)

For the past few days, members of Tara Grinstead's family have been harboring a secret fantasy that maybe, just maybe if they hope and pray hard enough, the 30-year-old high school teacher and former beauty queen might just throw open the door on Thanksgiving Day, sidle up to the dinner table and the month-long nightmare will be over.

It would , of course, take a miracle for that to happen and miracles are in short supply these days in rural Irwin County, a community still rocked by the young woman's disappearance on Oct. 22.

Absent a miracle, the search for the missing woman continues, authorities and family members say. Equusearch, the Texas-based search and rescue operation has just begun its detailed work, going over much of the same ground that an army of searchers combed inch by inch before the official search was concluded two weeks ago. Volunteers continue their hunt for Tara as well, and a reward for information about her whereabouts or her fate has now reached $90,000.

Officials from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have said they too remain on the case, which is still officially classified as a missing person's investigation, though they maintain that there have been no major developments in the case.

Has the Probe Tapered Off?

There are some people close to Tara, however, who have begun to question whether the GBI and the other agencies involved in the investigation are pursuing the case as aggressively as they once did.

In the days immediately following Tara's disappearance, they note, investigators quickly identified and interviewed most if not all of the major players in her life in and around Ocilla. They talked to her close companions and confidants, including Capt. Heath Dykes, a Perry police officer who Tara often turned to in times of stress. They interviewed Anthony Vickers, a love-struck 20-year-old former student who was arrested months before her disappearance after banging repeatedly on the teacher's door. And they talked at length with her ex-boyfriend, Marcus Harper, a former local cop and Army Ranger. The end of that six-year relationship left Tara emotionally shattered, and Harper had even suggested that Tara had contemplated suicide, though her family and close friends discount that.

Authorities even trolled the Internet, which continue to be rife with speculation, rumor and innuendo about Tara's personal life to locate other potential witnesses, among them young women who had dated Harper Tara had been heard fuming about at least one of Harper's 18-year-old companions. But after all the interviews, authorities maintained, that they were no closer to discovering Tara's fate.

Privately, some of those closest to Tara wonder whether the investigation is winding down.

Stones Left Unturned

As evidence they point to the fact that even now, more than four weeks after the investigation began, investigators have still not interviewed professors, classmates, and others at the university in Tifton where Tara was completing her studies in advance of beginning studies for her doctorate in education. As one source familiar with the probe put it, "GBI hadn't been down there andwhy would they not?"

Though authorities maintain their investigation is ongoing, some close to Tara fret that "they may have already decided this is no crime, this is a runaway, and if they've decided that, they may not be beating the bushes that much."

John Bankhead, a GBI spokesman, declined Tuesday to discuss specific elements of the investigation. But in similar missing person's cases, investigators sometimes decide that interviews in far-flung locations would be unlikely to yield significant new evidence, Bankhead said. It's also possible, he suggested, that investigators might still decide to focus on Tifton and other locales she might have frequented.

"We'll let the facts take us where we're going," he said. "At this point, we don't even know of she's alive or dead."

Tara's supporters contend that Tifton could prove a rich vein for information.

At the very least interviews with fellow students, professors and others who had contact with Tara outside of the tightly constricted community in Ocilla might be able to shed more light on her state of mind, one source familiar with the probe said. They may also be able to suggest other leads, the source said. Perhaps, the source suggests, there was another man in her life. Maybe she had developed other relationships in Tifton and Valdosta where she also studied that might offer a clue. So far, those avenues of investigation have not been explored, the source said.

And that means that despite all the energy that has been exerted, both by the cops and the public, the question of what happened to Tara remains an open question.

Early on, of course, there was some speculation that the young woman who vanished from her home after returning home from the annual Sweet Potato festival and dinner with friends, may have committed suicide.

Even now, those closest to Tara discount that possibility. They note that she left no note, and that authorities arriving at her house Monday morning found little out of place. Her car was parked in the driveway, though the driver's seat seemed to have been pushed farther back than the diminutive Grinstead would have preferred. The clothes she wore that night were found in the home, buried under a pile of other clothing. Her cellular phone was also recovered at her home, though source familiar with her habits, say it was highly unusual that she left it behind.

"I mean have you ever heard of anybody going to such lengths to get away cleanly?" the source asked. "If I'm going to kill myself why would I care about making it look like I disappeared?"

What's more the statistics argue against that possibility. Women who attempt suicide most often do it at home and use pills or other comparatively clean methods, and in the vast of majority of cases, unlike men, they fail on the first attempt. There is no indication that Tara had pills, or that she had ever tried suicide before.

A New Look?

But in the absence of any evidence of suicide, and with no hard evidence to suggest that she was abducted or worse, other options must be considered. For weeks now, some close to Tara have been pressing her friends and others who knew her about the possibility that she might have changed her appearance and simply taken off to start a new life, perhaps alone, or perhaps in the company of someone else.

Given Tara's history, that seems unlikely, those closest to her say. "Everybody I question I ask them the same thing; is there any possibility that she might go off to pursue a different existence somewhere?" the source said. "I keep getting the same answer; 'no way'."

"She's never colored her hair, the make up's been the same for years, she's always absolutely perfect," the source said. "I mean she is meticulous even on a bad day she looks like she just stepped out of Vogue magazine."

But as the other theories about her fate fall by the wayside, the source said, Tara's loved ones are carving out room in their hearts for the remote possibility that she did engineer her own disappearance. "That can't be excluded," the source said. Certainly, for that to have been the case, there would have to have been a sea change in Tara, the source said, "a real breakdown, worse than anything she had ever had before."

Tragically, in the weeks since her disappearance, the normally reserved people of Ocilla, including those close to Tara, have begun for the first time to talk openly about just how distraught the young woman was. "Obviously, she was heading into something and there was lots of warning signs," the source said. "I'm beginning to get pissed off at the people who saw themand didn't tell anybody."

But given those upheavals in Tara's life, the pressure of her studies and her job, the emotional torment of coping with the end of her long time relationship with Harper, given her displeasure of his choice of at least one young woman to replace her, and the possibility that there might have been other personal struggles that have not yet come to light, Tara's die-hard searchers are no longer willing to dismiss the possibility that she simply ran away.

"I have to include that as possibility," the source said. "Ignore that and I might be ignoring a possibility of finding her and getting her back when you touch all the horses in the forest, you know, you start looking for zebras."

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New Search Planned for Tara Grinstead

by Seamus McGraw

OCILLA, GA (Crime Library)- Authorities, backed up by the high-tech equipment of the Texas-based search operation EquuSearch are preparing to make one last comprehensive foray through the back woods of Irwin County looking for any trace of missing school teacher and former beauty queen Tara Grinstead.

Over the past two weeks, members of the team have done an aerial survey of the most remote areas of the county, and after breaking for the Thanksgiving holiday, plan to launch a massive search effort, comparable and perhaps larger than the intense volunteer driven effort that concluded last month, said Irwin County Deputy Sheriff Allen Morgan.

"We want to find some areas of interest, areas that we want to search again," Morgan said. "We're going to have a major searchwe just want to make sure the areas are being covered thoroughly. "We want to be able to tell the family that once we're through this county again that it's clear, that she's not here."

The search is scheduled for Dec. 11 and 12, Morgan said.

The EquuSearch team, which has garnered national headlines for, among other things, its recent work in Aruba searching for missing Alabama teen Natalee Holloway, has targeted specific areas of the county to canvass during the two-day hunt for Grinstead. Specifically, they have been looking at rugged backlands and deeply wooded areas, Morgan said, and that is where the volunteers will be deployed.

We're going to check these thick wooded areas, places maybe you couldn't check good riding a four-wheeler or on horseback. We're going to walk them," Morgan said.

The fact that authorities are holding off their search for nearly two weeks may be an indication that they hold out little hope of finding the 30-year-old high school teacher, at least not alive.

But family members still hope that searchers will find some clue about what happened to her after she vanished the night of Oct. 22 after the annual sweet potato festival and beauty pageant.

So far, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, together with the Ocilla police and the Irwin County Sheriff's Department, have turned up few leads, and the disappearance remains officially a missing person case.

In the weeks since she vanished, authorities have interviewed dozens of people. Among them are her former longtime boyfriend, Marcus Harper; Heath Dykes, a Perry police officer who had long been close to Grinstead; and Anthony Vickers, a 20-year-old former student whose crush on the teacher had apparently made him belligerent enough to bang on her door one night. He was charged with a disorderly persons offense in that incident, but authorities have said that all three have cooperated with investigators and none has been named as a suspect in her disappearance.

More Men in Tara's Life

In fact, authorities have not ruled out the possibility that she might have engineered her own disappearance.

In the meantime, those closest to Tara have been conducting investigations of their own, and have identified three other men who dated Grinstead in the months after her emotionally charged breakup with Harper. They are hoping to meet with them to discuss the young woman's state of mind in the weeks before she vanished.

It was not immediately clear whether authorities have interviewed the three men.

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