Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Officials Continue Search for Tara Grinstead

Aired January 13, 2006 - 20:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, day two, live on location, Ocilla, Georgia, in the search for Tara Grinstead. Tara, missing beauty queen turned history teacher, vanished in late October after a cookout. Well, the entire town of Ocilla searching still for Tara. What is the missing clue? What are police missing? Tonight, live in Ocilla, Georgia, exclusive coverage, never-before-seen video, and the desperate search for Tara Grinstead. Won`t you help us?
Good evening, everybody. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us tonight. Tonight, we are live on location here, Ocilla, Georgia, where for nearly three months, this town, this police force continues to search for missing 31-year-old beauty queen turned teacher after a cookout October 22. Well, Tara Grinstead never seen again. Tonight, an exclusive tour through Tara`s home in search for clues, and to her school, exclusive video and interviews. Tara`s family, her mother, her sister, her friends, police, searchers all need your help.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The main thing for us is the not knowing. And we`re just looking for that one thing that`s going to give us the tip to find her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know there`s no such thing as a perfect crime. We`re still diligently searching.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because of who Tara is, because of the kind of person that she is, she is worth all of the efforts that this community, that the law enforcement and the media and others have put forth to try to find her.


GRACE: We are here live in Ocilla at the Irwin County senior citizens center. It`s now been turned into the headquarters to find Tara Grinstead. I went through Tara`s home with her mom, absolutely beautiful, everything perfectly in place. It was surreal. Everything was there but Tara. It seemed as if any moment, she would walk right in the front door and give her mother a big hug.

Straight to Robert Preston with "The Douglas Daily News." Welcome, Robert. What can you tell us about this most recent search?

ROBERT PRESTON, "DOUGLAS DAILY NEWS": Well, Nancy back in the middle of December, when the Texas Equusearch team was in, they did a search here in Irwin County. They were going to search on a Saturday and a Sunday. They searched here in Irwin County Saturday. Saturday night, a tip came in pointing searchers to the Queensland community in neighboring Benhill (ph) County.

A group of about 20 or 25 people headed over there on Sunday and searched densely-wooded areas. They searched ponds, wells, any other bodies of water, didn`t find a whole lot. They did find some articles of clothing, but there are articles of clothing that are spread throughout all of these rural communities, where people throw things out on the side of the road, leave things in the woods. They did not trace any of those articles of clothing that they found then back to Tara.

However, that area has been an area of interest since then, and it`s been on the searchers` minds since that initial search. So they went back this weekend and search the Queensland community again on Saturday and Sunday. They had about 70 or 75 people, volunteers, law enforcement officers, public safety personnel. They combed the area. They went again through the ponds, through the wells. They also went through the densely- wooded areas, abandoned homes, anything that might look like it could have clues or house clues for Tara`s return.

They didn`t find anything that they could trace back to Tara. Again, they found some clothes but nothing that could be conclusively traced to her.

GRACE: What you are just seeing is just a shot of myself and Deputy Sheriff Allen Morgan. We retraced a lot of the search team`s efforts. We looked through very dense forest. We looked at wells. There are hundreds, literally, hundreds of hand-dug wells like the one you`re seeing now. They`re having to go down in the wells in search for evidence, or God forbid, for Tara.

Also a long, hard look, an exclusive look at the inside of this girl`s home with her mother, Ms. Grinstead. Take a listen.


GRACE: Only thing missing is Tara.

FAYE GRINSTEAD, TARA`S MOTHER: Yes, it is. It`s very, very strange.

GRACE: This is what she collected.

GRINSTEAD: Yes, she collected Barbie dolls. She did. And a lot of them are historical, as you can see this one. These are old, you know?

GRACE: Did she play guitar?

GRINSTEAD: Yes, she did. And she sang, too.

GRACE: Is this the lamp?


GRACE: I thought it was cracked. No? I thought it was cracked.

GRINSTEAD: I beg your pardon?

GRACE: I thought the lamp was broken.


GRACE: Oh, I see! I see. It is broken. Yes, up under here. And this was down on the floor? And the bed was made.

GRINSTEAD: No, the bed was -- they told me the bed was not made, like she had just gone to bed maybe. Tara slept with, like...

GRACE: Really?

GRINSTEAD: Tara slept with, like, pillows on the side of her, you know?

GRACE: Right.

GRINSTEAD: She slept with several pillows. And that`s what I was told, like she had possibly laid down and gone to bed. That`s why I wondered if somebody called her.

GRACE: Where`s the phone?

GRINSTEAD: It always was right here. I guess the GBI took it. But it`s normally on her bed. It`s normally right up here.

GRACE: It feels like she`s going to walk in at any minute.



GRACE: By the time I and the crew left Tara`s home, many of us were in tears, wondering what had become of this beauty queen. And when I say beauty queen, I mean beautiful from the inside and the outside.

While we have been here tonight at the Irwin County senior citizens center, now turned into the Find Tara headquarters. There have literally been up to 100 people coming by, showing their support, asking questions about Tara. During this show tonight, phone calls have already been coming in regarding the search for Tara Grinstead, that reward up to $200,000, this community, right now in an all-out battle to find one of their own.

When we left that house today in tears, we left behind Faye Grinstead -- stoic, still looking, still demanding answers. And joining me right now is Tara`s mother, Mrs. Grinstead. Ms. Grinstead, thank you for being with us.

GRINSTEAD: Thank you.

GRACE: When you hear about this massive search, when you hear from people you`ve never known before, never met before, all trying to find Tara, what are your thoughts?

GRACE: I am just totally, totally overwhelmed and so very, very grateful that so many people are working so hard to find her.

GRACE: You know, when we looked at her house today, everything was in perfect order. It was as, if at some moment, she was going to come right back through the door. What happened that day, that Saturday?

GRINSTEAD: I have no idea what happened.

GRACE: In your life. Did you hear from her? What was she doing?

GRINSTEAD: No, she had told me she would be tied up working with the girls, getting ready for the beauty pageant. And so I did not talk to her that day.

GRACE: Was she to visit you on Sunday?

GRINSTEAD: She did a lot of times, yes.

GRACE: Was she supposed to visit that Sunday?

GRINSTEAD: She had talked about it. She was to let me know because she didn`t know -- since she was tied up on Saturday working with the girls, she didn`t know if she would have time to come because she had studying to do.

GRACE: When you say she had studying to do, what was she studying?

GRINSTEAD: On her graduate school.

GRACE: What was the degree she was seeking?

GRINSTEAD: She was getting her specialist degree.

GRACE: And that would prepare her to seek her doctorate?

GRINSTEAD: Yes, that was last step before she started on her doctorate.

GRACE: Was that in history or education?

GRINSTEAD: It was administrative.

GRACE: Oh, to be a school principal.

GRINSTEAD: Educational leadership.

GRACE: That Sunday, when you thought she was coming over to visit you -- you`re in Hawksinsville (ph), right?


GRACE: How far is that from Ocilla?

GRINSTEAD: It`s about an hour`s drive.

GRACE: When did you start becoming suspicious?

GRINSTEAD: Well, I started calling her that afternoon and she did not answer the phone. And I didn`t think too much about it at first, but she never called me back. I left her a message and she didn`t call me back because I`d call both phones. But I really didn`t start to get worried until later on in the late afternoon. And when she had not called me back, I began to get concerned then.

GRACE: Did you call the neighbors?

GRINSTEAD: I did not call the neighbors until very late Saturday night, Sunday night...

GRACE: So you did call Sunday night?

GRINSTEAD: Sunday night.

GRACE: Right.

GRINSTEAD: I did not call her Saturday night. It was very late, say 12:30 or 1:00. I did call the neighbors to see if a car was home or if anything looked unusual.

GRACE: What did they say?

GRINSTEAD: They didn`t seem to think anything looked unusual, that the car was there. They had been gone all day and didn`t get back until late, but they said the car was there. Nothing looked unusual.

GRACE: And the light was on in her computer room?

GRINSTEAD: Some type of dim light was on in there.

GRACE: From the computer only.

GRINSTEAD: Could have been.


GRACE: Here is what sheriff`s deputy told me.


GRACE: I was wondering why the GBI had not questioned people in her classes at Aback (ph) or Waycross? I found out that her brother-in-law was now going to the classes, trying to talk to people. That`s not right. The common belief is that if Tara Grinstead is dead, that she has been hidden or buried somewhere local. This officer has told me about massive searches, volunteers, all-terrain vehicle, horseback, by foot, by plane looking for Tara or her remains. Nothing.


GRACE: To Brad Dennis, search director with Klaas Kids Foundation. Brad, this has been an all-out search by foot, canine, all-terrain vehicle, volunteers, even aerial searches. What is left to do? And how do we generate new tips?

Tonight, everyone, we are live in Ocilla, Georgia, hot on the trail, retracing the steps in the search for this beauty queen turned history teach. Go ahead Brad.

BRAD DENNIS, KLAAS KIDS FOUNDATION: Nancy, you`re absolutely right. Ever since October 22, when Tara disappeared, over 30 agencies have converged on that scene, ran massive search efforts. Our foundation, as well as Texas Equusearch got involved in running massive community-led search efforts. And I believe right now, we just have to continue to do that. You`ve seen it for yourself driving around, hundreds upon hundreds acres up there of farmland, farm ponds...

GRACE: And as a matter of fact, we`re showing that right now, Brad. You are seeing cotton that has already been taken off the fields, the fields then cut. This is where the cotton was baled and part of the search for Tara Grinstead.

To her sister, Anita Gattis. Tell me what jumps out at you about Tara`s home that night?

ANITA GATTIS, TARA`S SISTER: The car being there, the car being unlooked. She never left her car unlocked. A hundred dollars cash left.

GRINSTEAD: In the car?

GATTIS: In the car. Broken lamp by her bedside table that we know was not broken the day before. The girls said there was no incident. She always turned her light on, let her neighbors know. The lamp was on Friday night. Never came back on.

GRACE: (INAUDIBLE) the radio.

GATTIS: Found under the bed, yes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sister, she really is just an outgoing person. As far as her disappearance, if she was going away, she would have called me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we do hear rumors, even sometimes when they are as horrendous as they can be, you know, we think, Well, people are still out there looking. They`re still out there searching. They`re still out there listening.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tara is a friend, as well as a colleague, and so it`s a daily struggle. Every day, it`s difficult to walk down the hall and see her room. It`s difficult to drive by her house and her car`s not there anymore, to know that she`s not at the end of (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When she walked in the class, she talked until the bell rang, and kids got a lot out of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re just looking for that one thing that`s going to give us a tip to find her because we know she`s out there. And we just need to find her. Good, bad or ugly, we need a resolution.


GRACE: Welcome back, everybody. I`m Nancy Grace. And we are live here on location, Ocilla, Georgia, at the headquarters for Find Tara Grinstead. This girl, now 31 years old, a local history teacher, has been missing since this fall. Won`t you help us find her?

Dr. Kobilinsky, I went through Tara`s house through a fine-tooth comb, along with her mother. I saw where fingerprints had been taken, luminol had been used for testing. What do you think police are looking for?

LAWRENCE KOBILINSKY, FORENSIC SCIENTIST: Well, they`re looking for some evidence that an act of violence took place. You can see on the area that`s been dusted with powder, that tape lifts, fingerprint lifts have been performed. They`re looking for blood in areas that blood shouldn`t be found, using luminol, a presumptive test. They`re probably also -- they have looked for hair, trace evidence, fibers, DNA, something that indicates the presence of somebody who should not have been there.

Of course, they`re also looking at computer, cell phone records, regular phone records, any kind of mail, anything that gives them some kind of lead to pursue. What`s frustrating here is that there`s no lead. There`s no direction. There`s not even a crime scene. So it makes searching very difficult. It kind of...

GRACE: Speaking of -- go ahead.

KOBILINSKY: It reminds me very much of Chandra Levy, a 24-year-old who disappeared. She went out, they thought jobbing. They found her in a park a year later, despite fact the police searched the area where the body was later found. I hope it doesn`t take that long to break this case.

GRACE: You know, Dr. Kobilinsky, you said something that caught my attention. When I was in Tara`s home today with her mom, Faye Grinstead, I noticed there was no phone beside her bed, and I asked her mom about that.

To Anita Gattis, her sister. Do police have her phone? And if so, what else do they have? Was that a phone an answering machine, as well?

GATTIS: It was. Her land line phone was by her bed, answering machine-phone combination. And her cell phone was also taken. It was in a charger by her bed. They have both of those. They have her computer hard drive. They have her laptop.

GRACE: To Robert Preston with "The Douglas Daily News." What are police telling you?

PRESTON: Police have talked to us, but they haven`t given us a lot of specific information. They`ve given us general information about the searches. They`ve given us general information about what they`re looking for. But as far as specifics, we`ve heard all of the stories that everybody else has heard. We`ve tried to follow up on some of these leads. We haven`t been able to get much out of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation or the local authorities here.

And that`s sort of par for the course for the GBI. They -- when an investigation is in progress, they generally don`t give a lot of information out. So we`re waiting and waiting. We`re still asking questions. We want to keep it in the news.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just basically keep hoping that she is alive, and that little bit of hope is what`s keeps me going, what keeps me from breaking down every day (INAUDIBLE) it keeps me strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s my baby. I love her! (INAUDIBLE) in that car, she would have called!




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cannot even express how my family and our friends -- I mean (INAUDIBLE)


GRACE: There seems to be a nationwide epidemic of missing people. To our blogger, Clark Goldband. How many people are missing right now, Clark?

CLARK GOLDBAND, NANCY GRACE BLOGGER: Well, Nancy, the active cases are at approximately 51,000.

GRACE: Whew!

GOLDBAND: But since we last spoke 24 hours ago -- now, get this -- over 2,300 calls were made, on average, of people who are missing. Most of those people are found and don`t factor into this number we`re seeing on the screen.

GRACE: You know, the number, 50,000 missing people, can be overwhelming. We`re taking it one person at a time tonight -- that person, Tara Grinstead, Ocilla, Georgia. We are live here at the headquarters to find Tara.

Joining me now, Tara`s best friend, Maria Hulett. How long have you known Tara?


GRACE: And that morning -- I know she went to a cookout at a school superintendent`s house the evening before, after the pageant. She had been helping younger girls get ready for a local pageant.

HULETT: Right.

GRACE: She goes to the cookout, leaves, I think, around 11:00 PM or so to drive back home. You went to her home the next morning, Sunday morning, correct?

HULETT: No, Monday morning.

GRACE: Excuse me, Monday morning. What did you see?

HULETT: I immediately went into the house...

GRACE: Well, why did you go there?

HULETT: I had been -- we had been looking for her, her mother an I had. And then so I went down there that morning, knowing that the police were on their way, and I went in. The police were outside. Well, excuse me...

GRACE: How did you get in?

HULETT: ... the detective was outside by her car. Her door was unlocked.

GRACE: Her door was unlocked?

HULETT: Uh-huh.

GRACE: OK. Go ahead.

HULETT: Yes, I walked in the door, looked where her shoes would usually be, you know, to see if she had hurried out the door, maybe, looked around to see if anything had fallen off the tables, if there looked like (INAUDIBLE) having a struggle, you know? I immediately knew that something had to have been wrong for her not to have shown up for work, not to call home. There had to have been something wrong. So I...

GRACE: What did you see in the bedroom?

HULETT: The bedroom, she had -- there were clothes on the floor, jewelry on the floor. Her shoes were on the floor. And they were really nice shoes, and she`s very peculiar about her clothes, her clothing and shoes. They were on the floor. There were things packed -- stacked up on her -- next to her bed. Her bed had been slept in, it looked like to me. You know, her pillows were arranged like she sleeps. I immediately thought that she had been in the bed at some point. You know, she had been there at night. I knew that the last time that anybody had talked to her was Saturday night.

GRACE: Now, what about the clock-radio and the lamp?

HULETT: I didn`t see the clock. That was later on, when I went back the second time, did I see the clock.

GRACE: OK. Under the bed?

HULETT: Under the bed, right. Her cell phone was plugged up to the wall, charging, next to her bed.

GRACE: So the phone -- the cell phone was there. Would she ever have left without her cell phone?

HULETT: I feel like she would have, if she didn`t want to be bothered. If she had gone with someone who she knew, who she trusted, who she didn`t want to be bothered by anybody else, she`d have left it.

GRACE: Quick break, everyone.

We at NANCY GRACE want to help in our way solve unsolved homicides, find missing people. Tonight, we are taking a look for any clues and tips for 13-year-old Diana Gama. She disappeared November 2005, Fullerton, California. If you have information on Diana Gama, please call Fullerton Police Department, 714-738-6800. Please help us.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When she went missing, I saw her calendar on her desk. And all of the days were marked off all the way to when she went missing. I miss her smile everyday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s been hard on all of us that she`s been gone. She actually encouraged me to be in the pageant. I`m not the pageant type. I`m more of a tomboy. And she said I had a pretty smile and I should do the pageant, and I did the pageant.


GRACE: Welcome back. We are live here on the scene, Ocilla, Georgia, in the search for Tara Grinstead, a local homegrown beauty, now history teacher. Not only did she work all day teaching high school history, she then studied every night, take multiple courses pursuing her dream of a PhD.

Is the search dead? Has the trail gone cold for this missing beauty queen?

Let`s go to the former head of the FBI Houston unit, Don Clark. Don, at this juncture, what is the state`s biggest hurdle?

DON CLARK, FORMER HEAD OF FBI HOUSTON UNIT: Well, what the state has to do right now is probably what they`re continuing to do, is keep going back to the scenes. And they have got to try to find that clue.

Nancy, you mentioned earlier that, where`s the missing clue? Well, the missing clue is the clue. And they just have to keep going back and forth, back and forth, so that they can try to find something.

And they`ve got to look at a number of avenues, too. They`ve got to look at habits. They`ve got to look at people she associates with. They`ve got to look at every aspect to see if they can possibly develop a clue. And if the worst has happened, that that clue can lead them to the person who may be culpable.

GRACE: You know, you just said something very important, Don. Everyone, Don Clark, former head of the FBI Houston bureau, habits, habits.

Back to her best friend, Maria Hulett, what are Tara`s habits?

MARIA HULETT, CLOSE FRIEND OF TARA GRINSTEAD`S: She`s a very clean, neat person. Everything was in her -- in the right place. She was very peculiar about her computer, her laptop. Those things were there. Her computer was on, which she kept on most the time. Her laptop was in the closet, like she`d always kept it. Her cat was there, had been fed, you know...

GRACE: And her dog.

HULETT: Right.

GRACE: She was all about history.

HULETT: Oh, yes.

GRACE: When her mom took me through the house, I noticed history books everywhere, historical artifacts everywhere. Everybody, she even named her dog Dolly Madison, who was still barking and running around in the backyard, named after, of course, the wife of James Madison, who went into the burning White House to retrieve a portrait of George Washington and one of the original Declarations of Independence. There`s Dolly right now waiting for Tara to come home.

You know, you said habits. They`re very important in criminal cases. It`s Trial 101, showing a pattern or practice of either a defendant or a victim. Simply, what are their habits and what forensic or evidentiary proof is there in habit?

For instance, I want to go to you, Renee Rockwell. Very interesting to me that she always put this pair of very expensive -- I guess they were lizard-skin shoes -- back in the box, all right? Some people may call that compulsive, but that is her habit.

It`s not like her -- Renee, you should have seen this place. It was perfectly in order. But when the cops came, they found one of her beautiful necklaces on the floor of the bedroom. They found the digital clock, bedside clock, under the bed. They found her lamp knocked over and broken. And they found these shoes laying out on the floor, the clothes she had worn that evening, still lying out. That is just not like this girl.

RENEE ROCKWELL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, Nancy. And I don`t know how anybody could classify this as not any physical evidence, if they`re saying that there`s no sign of foul play, because that absolutely looks like foul play to me.

But the thing they`re dealing with, Nancy, is this is a girl that`s a teacher. She`s involved with her church. She`s going to two separate campuses. She`s involved with a beauty pageant circuit. So you can imagine all of the different places that the officers are going to have to investigate.

You don`t know if they`re looking for somebody that may know her, that`s upset with her, or someone that doesn`t know her that was obsessed with her. It`s just a wide-open field that they`re going to be looking for to find some clues.

GRACE: And if you look forward, if you look forward to the trial of whoever took or, God forbid, killed this girl, this beautiful girl, her mother tells me tonight that she believes Tara Grinstead is still alive, Lauren Lake, these habits, these habits of Tara Grinstead`s, will come into evidence. I guess you think they`re irrelevant, right?

LAUREN LAKE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, Nancy. I don`t think they`re irrelevant.

However, I will say this. Defense-wise, the way the police are handling this investigation, they are leaving way too many holes for a defense attorney to poke themselves into. This campus, they should be combing that campus and talking to these students. That`s exposure to a lot of people.

And you have to get in there and dot those i`s and cross those t`s in the investigation. Or if not, defense attorneys like me, unfortunately, as we do our jobs, are going to have to illuminate the fact that this evidence is not coming together good.

GRACE: And to her sister on that very point -- Lauren, on this one, I agree with you -- to Anita Gattis. This is Tara`s sister. You tell me police are not crossing the t`s, dotting the i`s.

ANITA GATTIS, MISSING TARA GRINSTEAD`S SISTER: Absolutely. And the GBI has totally blown it on the campuses, because they`ve dismissed. Those classes are done. That semester`s over. Those students will never be assembled again.

GRACE: How far of a drive was it for her to go to night classes?

GATTIS: She drove an hour to Waycross. She drove about an hour to Tifton. And then, if she had to go to Balldafta State (ph), that was almost 90 minutes.

GRACE: How many nights a week?

GATTIS: Three nights a week.

GRACE: Everybody, I am here at the Irwin County Senior Citizens Center, which has now been turned into the Find Tara Grinstead Headquarters. And outside this makeshift studio we have created here in Ocilla, Georgia, her students have poured in.

I talked to one young boy tonight who, along with other students, took part in the volunteer search and went to a local landfill, where they looked for the body of their teacher. He was here tonight with tears in his eyes talking about his teacher. The family, the community all standing outside this makeshift studio, not to be on TV, but to show support to find Tara Grinstead.

You know, Ms. Grinstead, you told me, while we there were in Tara`s house, that in your heart you know she`s still alive. Why do you say that?

FAYE GRINSTEAD, TARA GRINSTEAD`S MOM: I just feel that she is and because they have found no evidence of her being dead anywhere in all of the searches they`ve done. I just feel like she is still alive. I believe she is alive.

GRACE: You told me that you believed deeply that you would feel it somehow if she were no longer with us. Why do you say that?

GRINSTEAD: It`s just a mother`s instinct, just a mother`s feeling. I`m just -- I`m going to have to be shown that she`s dead before I believe it. I just...

GRACE: How do you get through your days everyday?

GRINSTEAD: I pray a lot. And I keep going over everything over and over in my mind, re-going over the crime scene in her house, just trying to find some answer, some clue. It`s just constantly with me.


GRACE: Did she do all of this decorating herself?

GRINSTEAD: Yes, she did. She did all of the decorations.

GRACE: It`s very -- and I could see her curtains, little designer curtains.

GRINSTEAD: The TV cabinet is the special sentimental value. This was in her playhouse when she was a little girl.

GRACE: You`re kidding? And she...

GRINSTEAD: And Anita also used it when she was a little girl to store her games in. So when she moved to this house, my daughter, Anita, and her refinished it.




GRINSTEAD: Tara was very busy. She lived a very quiet lifestyle. And her time was taken up with teaching school. She was also an assistant principal part-time. And then, when she was going to graduate school herself a couple of nights a week, so her time was filled.


GRACE: That is Tara Grinstead`s mom, Faye Grinstead. She was kind enough to take me through Tara Grinstead`s home and yard.

Where is Tara Grinstead? Everything is in place, her car, her home. Her dog`s in the backyard. Her cat`s in the front yard. Her clothes, her shoes, her kitchen`s in perfect order. No Tara Grinstead.

We are live in Ocilla tonight joining in the search for Tara Grinstead. And joining me now, her next-door neighbor, a longtime friend of this history teacher in a local high school, Joe Portier.

Did you notice anything unusual the night she went missing? I knew she had been to a cookout at a school`s superintendent`s home, left there at 11:00. We know she made it home because her car`s there. What did you see, Joe?

JOE PORTIER, TARA`S NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOR: Nancy, I was gone all morning. I returned home for lunch. And there was a lot of girls in and out of Tara`s house. I knew she was fixing their and makeup. As a matter of fact, she was doing my granddaughter, who was 9-year-old, being in the first pageant that she`d ever been in. Tara was helping her out.

So I walked over to see how she had fixed my granddaughter up. And of course, Tara was real proud of what she had done for Mary Beth. But that was the last time I saw Tara.

GRACE: That evening...

PORTIER: That evening.

GRACE: ... did you notice anything unusual?

PORTIER: Well, I went back out to the farm and worked until around 6:30 or 7:00. Come back home, Tara was gone.

GRACE: Her car was gone?

PORTIER: Her car was gone. Around 10:00, my wife looked out and said, "I guess Tara must have went somewhere after the pageant, because her light`s not on." We went to bed.

GRACE: Did you expect her light to be on in -- is it in her bedroom?

PORTIER: In her bedroom. We was a little bit concerned, but after the pageant, we just gathered she probably went somewhere else.

GRACE: Did she always have that light on at night when she came in?

PORTIER: When she come in, she would turn it on. That was kind of her signal that she had gotten home OK and she was inside.

GRACE: And she knew that you guys would notice?

PORTIER: She knew that we knew.

GRACE: Everybody, their homes, I would say, are about 30, 40 feet apart on the...


PORTIER: Probably not that much.

GRACE: Yes. And...

PORTIER: Fifteen feet, maybe.

GRACE: Her bedroom window looks into their windows, as well. You can look over. It`s very easy to see if a light is on. Would she leave that light on through the night?

PORTIER: No, no, no. She would not.

GRACE: She`d have it on for a while...

PORTIER: She`d have it on for a while.

GRACE: ... and then you know that she had made it in?

PORTIER: We knew she had made it in.

GRACE: And did that ever happen that night?

PORTIER: No. When we went to bed about 10:00, it had not came on. And of course, we got up the next morning, went out to the farm. I went to the grocery store to pick up some items. We was going to cook lunch.


PORTIER: Her car was home.

GRACE: Her car was there when you looked.

PORTIER: Everything look normal.

GRACE: Does she normally lock her door?


GRACE: Yes, because if she were such a fanatic about locking her car door, I can only assume that extended to her front door, which was unlocked when police got there.

PORTIER: No, no, no, Nancy, it was locked.

GRACE: OK, you know what, Anita? I think you told me it was unlocked.

GATTIS: It was unlocked when Maria got there, but Mr. Portier had a key and he let the police in.

GRACE: Ah. So that`s why it was unlocked.

GATTIS: Right.


GRACE: So it was locked when she left.

PORTIER: Right. Faye had called us about...

GRACE: That`s even more confusing, actually, because it means she probably locked the door behind her.

PORTIER: Right. It was locked...

GATTIS: It was locked when the police got over there.

GRACE: OK, and if you`re a dragged out screaming and kicking, you`re not allowed to slow down to lock the door behind you.


GRACE: The clues in this case continue to be more and more confusing. Here is what I saw on my ride-along along the trail, along the search for Tara Grinstead.


GRACE: Have there been any tips where people say they saw something or heard something, thought they heard a scream, thought they saw a scuffle, anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not to us, they haven`t. Now, I don`t know what has been turned over to the...

GRACE: I`m sure they would call you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of the ones we`d get has been concerned people (INAUDIBLE) we had a citizen that lives out towards the Irwinville area. He called and wanted to made sure we had done checked his property. And we had told him we had, and he wanted it checked again. So we went back out.

GRACE: Why? Why did he want his property checked?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was just concerned. He just -- the people here, we`re such a tight-knit community, we got a lot of people interested, you know, want to find her. They want the family to have some kind of closure.

GRACE: If someone local did this, which I believe most likely they did, they would know every lean-to, every abandoned build, every well, better than you would know them. I mean, they would know, in their experience, where to hide someone. I just keep getting the feeling that she is hiding in plain sight, that she`s right under our noses somewhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s just a matter of where.

GRACE: Do you? Does that bug you?



GRACE: Back to next-door neighbor of Tara Grinstead`s, Joe Portier. Joe, your yard was perfect. It looked like it was from home beautiful, as did Tara Grinstead`s. You two often worked in the yards together. Now, would it have been like her to have a latex glove found in her front yard?

PORTIER: I would not think so, Nancy. After I had called the local police when we couldn`t find Tara in the house that Monday morning, I walked back to the front porch talking to the chief of police on my cell phone. And that`s when I spied the latex glove. It was actually before the police got there.

GRACE: Straight out now to a special guest joining us by phone, Brad Dennis. Of course, you always start looking at boyfriends, ex-boyfriends. Tonight, no one has been named as an official suspect.

Another problem in my mind, Brad Dennis, is this location -- look at this. You`re out in the middle of beautiful farmland, miles and miles away from the nearest interstate, about 41 to 45 minutes. It`s not like people driving down the interstate are going to think, "Oh, I`ll get off here and drive down to Ocilla and snoop around." Does that suggest to you that the perpetrator is local?

BRAD DENNIS, KLAAS KIDS FOUNDATION: Well, it definitely suggests that it`s local. And like you said, it`s beautiful terrain, but it seems to be very hostile terrain out there, too. You know investigating these cases and most of these cases (INAUDIBLE) suspect`s name is already in the investigation report. That means that it`s going to be someone from local area, friends, relatives, someone that has come across her at some point in time (INAUDIBLE)

GRACE: Oh, hold on. This is a shot of a well. There are literally hundreds of these manmade wells throughout the area. Police have been focusing on a search for them.

To psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig, Tara`s family has told me she became a teacher to help people. If she was a nurturer, a giver, could that have made her more vulnerable to someone that came to her door wanting help that night?

DR. ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Yes, it also sounds like -- it sounds like she knows whoever took -- I mean, that`s a very strong possibility.

But you bring up a really excellent point. When somebody is lovely and nurturing and naive, you can be seduced by somebody who is more sinister and dangerous. And that`s always a very strong possibility. And hopefully that isn`t the case.

But, you know, she seems like she was just a lovely person who wanted to help everybody who came across her way. And she`s also a very beautiful girl and the type of girl that many men would be interested in. So it just sounds like some type of seduction, abduction.

I mean, what we know is that stranger abductions is very, very rare. And given all of the things that we`re hearing tonight, it just sounds like it`s somebody who knew their way around her home, her, and the hometown.

GRACE: Everyone, we are live here in Ocilla, Georgia, joining into the search for Tara Grinstead.

Please stay with us tonight as we pause to remember. We remember First Lieutenant Jaime Lynn Campbell, just 25, an American hero.



GRACE: ... the only thing missing is Tara.


GRACE: She collected?

GRINSTEAD: Yes, she collected Barbie dolls. She did. And a lot of them historical, as you can see this one. These are old, you know?

GRACE: Does she play guitar?

GRINSTEAD: Yes, she did. And she sang, too.


GRACE: Tara Grinstead`s mom took me through her home. There`s her cat, Herman Talmadge, another historical figure, a Georgia politician. The dog named Dolly Madison. Oh, if only these two could speak.

As a matter of fact, to Tara`s next-door neighbor, Joe Portier, your wife heard the dog barking her head off in the early-morning hours the night she disappeared, right?

PORTIER: That`s right, Nancy. She made the comment over coffee that morning that she could just ring Dolly`s neck, a Southern expression, for barking all night.

GRACE: You know, that`s very reminiscent of two other cases, the Nicole Brown Simpson case, where her dog, Akita, took center stage. And the time line in the state`s evidence started with that dog`s barking, as well as McKinsey (ph), the dog in the Laci Peterson, Scott Peterson case, who took center stage at trial, as well.

I want to tell everyone, January 21 and 22 there is another search for Tara Grinstead. You find it all on the Web site,

To Anita Gattis, Tara`s sister, final thoughts?

GATTIS: I thank you so much for being here. You`ve done a great job. I thank you for showing things that no one had seen and for showing part of Tara that no one knew, but everybody, everybody loved.

GRACE: I want to thank you and Tara`s mom for being with us.

Our big thank you is to you. We are here in Ocilla, Georgia, trying to find -- trying to help find, put the spotlight on the search for Tara Grinstead.

Thank you, Ms. Grinstead.

Thank you, Anita.

And thank you, to you, for inviting us and Tara Grinstead into your home. Coming up, headlines for all around the world. I`m Nancy Grace signing off again for tonight. See you right here Monday night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. Please help us find Tara. Until Monday, good night, friend.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines