OCILLA, Ga. - The Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents and local law enforcement are searching for the remains of Tara Grinstead, the former beauty queen who vanished without a trace more than 11 years ago.
Investigators are focusing on a pecan grove not far from Grinstead's home in Ocilla.
GBI agents are not commenting about the search for Grinstead's remains, following the restrictions of a new gag order Tuesday.
FOX 5 has been in Ben Hill County all week as authorities have been sifting and digging through the soil of a pecan orchard. The search Wednesday began around 6 a.m. and agents didn't leave until after 6 p.m.
A large convoy of agents, flanked by south Georgia law enforcement officers and anthropologists, appears to have narrowed their search to one corner of the orchard that sits off of Bowens Hill Highway. Randy Hudson, owner of Hudson Pecans, told FOX 5's Portia Bruner he is working closely with investigators to help them resolve the case.
“Our hearts, thoughts, prayers and condolences are with the Grinstead family. We are doing everything we can to assist the GBI. We also hope whoever is involved in this is arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Hudson said.
Two recent interviews led agents to the pecan orchard, where about 40 investigators have been on scene each day.
Two years ago, agents drained a pond, also in Ben Hill County, which they believed contained evidence related to the case.
Last week, Ryan Alexander Duke, a former student at the high school at which Grinstead taught, was arrested for her murder.
Grinstead 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.
Two days later, her co-workers at Irwin County high School, where she taught, called 911 when she didn't show up for work. Police said when they got to Grinstead's home to investigate, they found no signs of a struggle and her purse, keys and cell phone were still there.
She was 30-years-old at the time of her disappearance.
A grand jury is expected to meet on April 12 to see if the murder case against Duke will move forward. He remains in jail without bond.