A Long - Held Secret:

The Disappearance and Murder of Tara Grinstead

Tara Grinstead, thirty years old, a stunningly gorgeous high school teacher, loved beauty pageantry. She had been a contender for Miss Georgia in 1999 after being named Miss Tifton. So coaching young competitors on Saturday, October 22, 2005, was a particularly happy day for her. She had eight local teen girls over to her home and helped them do their hair and makeup in preparation for the Sweet Potato beauty pageant, part of the annual festival, a tribute to the area’s prized cash crop (not to be confused with the yam), that was going to be held that night in the tiny nearby town of Fitzgerald, Georgia.

Even her neighbor Joe Portier’s granddaughter was there getting ready for the pageant, so he stepped over to see how things were going. The pageant girls had their curling irons and makeup lying on the kitchen counter. Everyone was enjoying themselves and looking forward to the pageant.

As noon approached, Tara decided to leave briefly to get lunch. While she was gone, the landline phone rang. One of the teens answered. She later would say that the man was rude.

The pageant started around 3:00 p.m. and concluded around 7:00 p.m. The guy who routinely videotaped the pageant was not working that night, and the absence of a video would later be a hot topic on Internet discussion boards.

After the pageant, Tara said her good-byes to friends, and Dana Wilder, one of the pageant girls, walked Tara to her car around 7:30 p.m. Dana later recalled that Tara was in good spirits. Tara told her she was heading to a barbecue at her superintendent’s Dr. Troy Davis’s house.

Tara drove her white Mitsubishi 3000 GT sports car down US Highway 129 toward Ocilla where she lived, arriving around 8:45 p.m. She detoured and stopped by her landlord’s son’s house, Rhett Roberts. Rhett and Tara had dated for a couple of months, and after the breakup they remained friends. Rhett’s house was located behind Troy’s house. Tara talked to Rhett at the curb for about fifteen minutes and then proceeded to the barbecue arriving at 8:00 pm.

Tara enjoyed herself while eating and watching the Auburn–LSU football game. She received several phone calls. Most people had already left the party, and Tara was sitting on the deck with Troy when she received a call at 10:20 p.m. Tara spoke briefly with the caller and ended her call with, “I love you too.”

Tara left the Davis home around 11 p.m. and told Troy that she was going home to put on her pajamas and watch a video. She drove less than a mile to her house, a two-bedroom rental located at 300 West Park Street—and vanished for eleven years.

2017-2018 Copyright Dr. Maurice Godwin