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Jury acquits Georgia man of murder in missing teacher cold case

May 20 (UPI) -- A Georgia jury on Friday acquitted a man who confessed to killing a high school teacher in 2005 then later recanted.

Ryan Duke was found not guilty of murder, malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and burglary, WMAZ-TV in Macon, Ga., reported. He was, however, found guilty of concealing the death of another for moving the body of Tara Grinstead from her home.

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Grinstead, a high school history teacher in Irwin County, was reported missing in October 2005 when she didn't show up to work. She was last seen at a barbecue two days earlier.

Police never found her body, but in 2017, investigators received a tip that Duke and an accomplice, Bo Dukes, bragged that they killed her in her home, then burned her body twice.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a retired Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent said a tip pointing to the two men had been overlooked for years. Dukes' girlfriend at the time of the slaying told police he had been involved, and Dukes then accused Duke of killing Grinstead.

Duke told the Ocilla Police Department he killed Grinstead and provided them with a written confession. The GBI said he also knew details about the case that weren't public.

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"I don't feel like I deserve to be free to breathe," he wrote in his confession.

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Police later arrested Dukes, who initially said he didn't know anything about Grinstead's death. He later told police Duke killed the teacher and he helped him burn the body. Dukes is serving a 25-year prison sentence for concealing Grinstead's death.

During testimony, Duke said Dukes was actually responsible for killing Grinstead but he lied in his confession because he was scared of his accomplice. He admitted to helping Dukes burn the body.

Both men attended the same high school where Grinstead taught, graduating a few years before her death.

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Police said they only found bone and teeth fragments from what they believe is Grinstead's remains, but they were unable to identify them because they were burned twice, destroying DNA evidence.

Duke's sentencing hearing is expected to begin Monday.

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