It’s been decades since former Georgia beauty queen Tara Grinstead was last seen alive by her loved ones. The trial begins this week for the man accused of killing Grinstead and covering up her death.

Jury selection began Monday morning for the murder case against Ryan Alexander Duke at the Irwin County courthouse. According to Channel 2 Action News, around 400 people were summoned to be potential jurors in the high-profile case.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, in February 2017,  Duke was arrested for Grinstead’s murder after he reportedly confessed to Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents that he had killed Grinstead, 30, at her home in October 2005, in a drug-and-alcohol-fueled botched robbery.

Bo Dukes, who is not related to Ryan, was found guilty in 2019 of hindering the apprehension of a criminal, concealing the death of another, and two counts of making a false statement, in connection with the case.

FILE – This file photo provided by the Ben Hill County Sheriff’s Office, Ga., shows Bo Dukes on Friday, March 3, 2017. Dukes was sentenced Friday, March 22, 2019 in court in Abbeville. Dukes was convicted Thursday night of lying to investigators about the 2005 death of Tara Grinstead. The high school history teacher’s body was burned to ash and bone fragments in a pecan orchard. (Ben Hill County Sheriff’s Office/WMAZ via AP, File)

John McCullough, who said he was a friend of Bo Dukes, told the jury at Dukes’ trial that the defendant told him in 2006 that Ryan Duke accidentally killed Grinstead and asked Dukes for his truck to move the body. Dukes said that he brought Grinstead’s body to his family’s pecan farm where he apparently burned the remains.

“He seemed like something was bothering him,” McCullough reportedly told the jury about the conversation, which took place during a Christmas visit in 2006.

“It started to come out. He said, ‘You’re my battle buddy, right?’ He was like, ‘Man, I need to tell you something.’”

McCullough  said that Dukes told him “it takes 1200 degrees to burn human bones.”

The witness also said that he attempted to contact local law enforcement about Dukes’ revelation, but his messages were not returned. He then reportedly contacted the GBI.

FILE – This Feb. 22, 2017, file photo provided by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation shows Ryan Duke. Duke, charged with killing teacher Tara Grinstead in 2005, has been granted a pretrial appeal by the Georgia Supreme Court. (Georgia Bureau of Investigation via AP, File)

Dukes, who was a former student at the high school where Grinstead taught, initially denied having any knowledge about Grinstead’s 2005 disappearance, but later admitted to the GBI that he helped Duke dispose of Grinstead’s body after Duke, also a former student at the high school, killed her at her home.

“This case has certainly captivated the hearts and minds of this town. This community needs to know the truth, it’s important for Irwin County,” Metro Atlanta attorney Phillip Holloway said. “This is why I hope they do get a jury from Irwin County.”

Given the number of people summoned for jury duty, the jurors’ selection could take a while. Check back for updates.

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[Featured image: Tara Grinstead/Handout]

*Additional reporting by Ellen Killoran*

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