WILCOX COUNTY, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - The man convicted of concealing the death of south Georgia beauty queen and teacher Tara Grinstead has learned his fate and will serve 25 years in prison.
The sentencing hearing for Bo Dukes took place Friday morning, one day after a Wilcox County jury found him guilty of covering up the murder of Grinstead, who was last seen the night of October 22, 2005, when she attended a beauty pageant and barbecue in Fitzgerald, Georgia. Investigators said she went home to Ocilla and was never seen again.
"To the Grinstead family, I'm truly sorry," Dukes said in the courtroom Friday morning ahead of the sentencing. "My actions were cowardly, callous, and cruel."
As Dukes offered the Grinstead family a tearful apology, he said he "failed Tara" and "failed her family."
"I pray for your forgiveness," Dukes said.
The judge got choked up as he sentenced Dukes, quoting the book of Romans.
"Nothing that I do here is going to relieve the pain that the family has endured all these years," the judge said. "You were an adult, you were 21 years old when this happened. This wasn't some teenage thing."
Dukes was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Following the sentencing, Grinstead's sister, Anita Gattis, told FOX 5 she wasn't phased by Dukes' words.
"He's been in self-preservation mode for years and never thought once about what this was like for our family," Gattis said. "But this sentence does give us a tiny Band-Aid for our pain," Gattis said.
The guilty verdict was returned around 5 p.m. Thursday. Dukes was also found guilty for lying to law enforcement about Grinstead's death.
Dukes faced two counts of making a false statement to police, one count of hindering the apprehension or punishment of a criminal, and one count of concealing a death. He was sentenced to five years for each of the first three counts and 10 years for concealing Grinstead's death.
It took about an hour for the jury to deliberate and return the verdict on Thursday, having asked to review one piece of evidence, a video of Bo Dukes speaking with police.
During the trial, the judge asked Dukes if he wished to testify on his own behalf, and he replied “No." Defense attorneys did not present any witnesses.
The incineration of Grinstead's remains in a pecan orchard after she vanished in October 2005 would help keep her death a mystery for more than a decade.
In closing arguments, defense attorney John Fox called the case “a failure organization-wide” for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. In urging the jury to acquit Dukes, Fox said, “You can call it presuming other agencies did their job and followed down leads. But the answer was in their file. All they had to do was read it. They dropped the ball.”
On Wednesday, jurors watched a videotaped confession of Dukes admitting he helped a friend burn the body of the teacher until "it looked like it was all ash."
In an impassioned argument, prosecutor Brad Rigby told jurors, “What did Bo Dukes and Ryan Duke do to this beautiful lady? They set her on fire and left her with a tooth that won pageants. The tooth on billboards.”
Rigby added, “The whole defense, in this case, proves Bo Dukes is guilty.”
The trial of Ryan Duke who prosecutors have charged with Grinstead’s murder is scheduled to begin on April 1.