Special Report: What happened to Tara Grinstead?
It's been six years since Tara Grinstead went missing from Ocilla. The disappearance of the school teacher and beauty queen attracted national attention.
Ocilla is a small town off the beaten path in Southwest Georgia. Quiet and mostly peaceful. But for six years the town has held a mystery. A 30-year-old high school history teacher seemingly up and vanished. Even today people are still asking what happened to Tara Grinstead.
"She was somebody that was admired in the community, by her peers and by her students as well," said Ocilla Police Chief Billy Hancock.
Officers with the Ocilla Police Department were called out to Tara's home October 24, 2005 after she didn't report to work. Chief Hancock remembers entering the house.
"It just never felt right, it felt like something was just wrong," said Hancock.
The car still in the car port, her cell phone still on the night stand, but Tara Grinstead was missing.
Right from the outset Hancock says he knew this was too big for the small town. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called in on day one.
Gary Rothwell and his team at the G.B.I. are now handling the investigation.
"We didn't have any signs of forced entry, there was no sign of a struggle. But that's not to say that something could have happened. We can't rule that out but there were no obvious signs of violence in the residence," said Rothwell.
Investigators then began trying to account for Tara's movements that Sunday night.
"It culminated with her attending a barbeque with some friends from her not to far away from her house and she left that barbeque shortly after 10:30 and has not been accounted for yet," said Rothwell.
Before that barbeque Tara stopped at a beauty pageant in Fitzgerald. Noah Griffin is one of the pageant organizers; he remembers seeing his friend that day.
"That was one of the things I was asked, 'Did she seem depressed? Did she seem upset?' Not to me at all. She was just everyday Tara," said Griffin.
Advising in beauty pageants was one several responsibilities Tara juggled on top of being a full time teacher.
"She did pageants she coached girls, she did hair, she did make-up, she was a student at night she was just always on the go," said Griffin.
Tara's busy schedule and complicated love life was one of the angles investigators looked at.
"She had been engaged in a couple of romantic relationships. Those were certainly the subject of focus initially," said Rothwell. "We have nobody that we can identify as someone that we believe was associated with the disappearance of Tara, that's not to say that anybody we've talked to has been cleared either."
And even though it's been six years with no suspects, the GBI says this is not a cold case.
"This case has never gone cold. Leads come in on a weekly basis. We have several avenues we are pursuing now," said Rothwell.
Jason Shoudel is the man in charge of pursuing those new avenues as the lead investigator and he is still soliciting tips.
"We want closure to this investigation, the family wants closure to this investigation and we want to put some finality to it. They might not think it's a big lead to them, but to us it might be the one piece of information that maybe breaks this case," said Shoudel.
"When I travel to this day, every time I go to Tifton. If I go to Savannah, wherever I go I am constantly looking for her and I will look for her until the day I die. But I honestly and truly feel that I will know before it's all said and done, before I die I will know what happened. I feel like somebody knows something and they are just not talking," said Griffin.
Any tips or information on the Tara Grinstead case should be shared with the GBI at (478) 987-4545. For more on Tara, visit http://www.findtara.com.