Defense challenges DNA evidence in trial of man accused in 2005 beauty queen killing

IRWIN COUNTY, Ga. — There is a battle unfolding right now over crucial DNA evidence in the trial of the man accused of killing a teacher and beauty queen who was missing since 2005.

Channel 2′s Tony Thomas was in Tift County for today’s hearing. A judge’s decision in the hearing could make or break the case.

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The murder trial is set to begin in just two weeks.

Ryan Duke’s defense lawyers attempted Monday to poke holes in the reliability of the DNA testing that links Duke to the crime scene.

Lawyers allege prosecutors are playing hide-and-seek with all the potential evidence as the trial approaches.

Ryan Duke whispered a few words to his attorney, but otherwise sat quietly as two GBI forensic scientists took the stand.

The jury will hear two things that link Duke to Tara Grinstead’s 2005 disappearance and killing: a 2017 confession Duke gave investigators that he now says was false, and DNA the GBI said it found on a latex glove discovered just outside of Grinstead’s home.


Defense lawyers allege the GBI didn’t follow its own protocols in testing the evidence and isn’t providing all the documents for the defense to look at them independently.

Duke is charged with murdering Grinstead and having his friend Bo Dukes help him move and then burn her body.

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His is the largest case file in GBI history, spanning 17 years.

An Irwin County jury is set to be chosen to hear the case on May 2.