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: Hey. Is Anthony there?
: Yeah, this is him.
: This is Payne Lindsey. I'm doing the documentary podcast on Tara Grinsted.
: Oh, I understood, die.
: Ten years ago today marked the last time anybody reported seeing or talking to Tara Grinstead.
: Officially, police are calling this a missing person's case.
: GBI officials say investigator …
: Latex glove found in …
: $80,000 reward is being offered.
: Where is Tara Grinstead?
: From Tenderfoot TV in Atlanta, this is Up and Vanished, the investigation of Tara Grinstead. I'm your host Paynee Lindsey.
: Before I jump into my interview with Anthony Vickers, we need to go over some of the finer details in this case. There were two major pieces of evidence that investigators found at his home. The first and perhaps the biggest one was a single latex glove found in Tara's yard. Here's Maurice Godwin on the glove.
: It was in front of the steps and it was laying there at the edge of the grass with some pinestraw. They collected it and they did analysis on it. They found full profile, a white male DNA on the gloves. And it's been entered into the Georgia DNA database and it's been entered into CODIS for like 10 years and there's never been a match.
: How many people did they swab in this case?
: Upwards to 200, students, anybody, any males or stuff that knew her. In Georgia, you have to be convicted of a felony to be swabbed.
: So in Georgia you have to willingly give up a DNA swab? They can't make you do it.
: They walk up to you, they ask you for it. If you volunteer, fine. If you don't, then they have to have enough probable cause to write a warrant and go back and get the swab.
: My question about the glove is this, if you have got to somebody and you're struggling with that individual, why is the glove even off of the hand to be able to even fall to the ground?
: Right. So you're saying, if you're going to wear latex gloves to commit a crime, why are they off your hands before you leave the scene?
: I think it's a 50/50 chance that the glove was a plant.
: The second piece of evidence was a business card found in Tara's front door. But as ominous as that seemed, there appeared to be a valid explanation for it. The car belonged to a friend of Tara's family, a police officer from a nearby town called Perry.
: Late Sunday night on October 23rd before she was reported missing, Tara's mom was concerned because she wasn't responding so she asked his family friend to go check on her.
: He was called by Faye, Tara's mother to go check on Tara. So he drove from Perry to Ocilla, probably arriving at probably 12:0 AM, it would be Monday morning.
: So Sunday night, Monday morning?
: Sunday night, Monday morning, yes. So he went to the house, knocked on the door, couldn't get anyone and left the business card wedged between the door and then left.
: Now that we're a little more up to speed, here's my call with Anthony Vickers.
: I really and truly didn't want to talk to you but, you know, you'd probably play nicer if I was nice to you. You know, when people just quit looking at you funny, then a day, another thing comes what. You know what I mean?
: So tell me about your relationship with Tara.
: Yeah. I mean we saw each other after high school and went on there for a year or two.
: Okay. So this relationship you had with Tara, was it at all sexual?
: Oh, yes.
: Okay. So when you two would hang out, where'd you guys usually go?
: Most of time, it was just at her house.
: So was this a serious relationship or was it more like a fling or something?
: Oh, it was kind of a little bit of both but it was so recent that I got out of school that we kind of kept it, you know, just kept it on the low.
: Describe to me what it was like when Tara went missing.
: I really didn't find nothing was wrong there when GBI came and talked to me, you know. They told me that she missed school or whatever that night. I think it was a Monday and they come and told me and you know I was kind of upset with them, you know.
: They going through her house and all that, been gone two days and she ain't really got to report to nobody so I didn't really see … if I go off the grid for a couple of days and somebody's in my house, I'm gonna be upset.
: So I didn't place it to be as her being missing til later on. I mean, you know, she's grown, single. I mean she can do what she wants to. I really didn't think too much about it, there until about, you know, four or five days in where she done missed a few days of work, you know, stuff like that wasn't like her.
: A few weeks after Tara disappeared, Anthony received a mysterious phone call from an unknown number. All he could hear was a girl that was screaming and crying and he was convinced it was Tara. Here's what he said about it.
: It sounded like her squalling on the phone to me, dude. I mean I really thought it was her. I mean I was watching my little cousin and I had somebody come and get him so I could go figure out what's going on. It wasn't really no overreaction. I really … I still think it was her.
: And the story I got told is they researched it and it was a known drug dealer's house. That's what they told me. Well, how'd you all know that? I mean the feedback they gave me on it didn't make any sense.
: So what went down when the GBI reached out to you?
: Basically, they asked me if I would do like a DNA swab, would I be okay with that? A lie detector or some other thing.
: So you did a DNA swab?
: Yeah, I did all of that.
: What were the results of your lie detector test?
: Oh, they said that I was true there. They cleared me after that.
: Did they search your property at all?
: They went through my vehicle and through my dad's vehicle. When all this was going on, I didn't want to get involved. You know, one thing tells you how you're gonna figure out where she's at. And the other ones, you know, you see people arrested for stuff they didn't do and stuff all the time. And my thing got to be just cooperate with them, do everything you got to do and get out their way.
: Do you remember when the last time you saw Tara was?
: Right off hand, I really don't know. I really don't remember.
: Did you have any involvement in Tara's disappearance?
: Oh no.
: Can you give me the rundown of what happened on March 30th of '05 when you got arrested at Tara's house?
: She wouldn't answer her phone and I went over there and knocked on the door and she, you know … we were still kind of on the low. She didn't want, you know, a bunch of folks knowing that I was over there and we got into a little argument but the police station's only a block away.
: So a neighbor called and only a block away and I was getting in the car. I was actually driving. I was actually driving, pulling out of her driveway. And they stopped and pulled me out of the car. I was trying to leave and trying to do right, you know. Saying what I needed to say. I was leaving and then I couldn't leave. Well, I only live like two blocks down the road so it wasn't like I made a 30 mile trip or nothing.
: Before I called Anthony, I scoured every detail in this police report and I found something kind of interesting. It appeared that there was another man inside Tara's house that day and this man provided the statement to police. His name was blacked out in the reports I received but at the very bottom, the officer refers to him in the report with the initials H.D. Maybe Anthony could help clarify this.
: Was there someone else in Tara's house that day?
: Oh, yeah. there was. I don't know who he was or I think he's some guy from Perry, some cop from Perry.
: What was he like?
: You know, I don't … I don't know what it was. I don't know. You know, you can't judge a book by its cover but I didn't like his cover.
: So this cop from Perry was inside Tara's house that day. It seemed a little strange to me. His initials were H.D. Remember the guy who left the business card? His name was …
: Detective Heath Dykes, Perry Police Department.
: Detective Heath Dykes, Perry Police Department, initials H.D. Just like the police report. So he drove there with the sole intent of checking on Tara, correct?
: Oh yeah.
: How far is Perry from Ocilla?
: It's about an hour 15 minutes.
: Do you think it's odd that Heath Dykes didn't see the glove on the ground?
: I think it's unusual. Also you remember, you're not dealing with just a regular just civilian type individual. You're dealing with a veteran detective. Possibly, the argument would be that it was too dark but he needs to be asked that question.
: It was odd that he was inside Tara's house that day when Anthony got arrested. But it was even more odd to me that a veteran detective who drove over an hour to check on Tara Sunday night wouldn't have seen that latex glove on the ground. You would think that there would be a little detective work but all he did was leave his business card.
: From the beginning, I approached this thing with the certainty that there was foul play involved in Tara's disappearance. It just seemed impossible that she could walk away from her life and remain hidden for all these years but I guess there's always that possibility. I called a missing persons expert named Thomas Loth. He has over 20 years of experience in these sort of cases. I wanted him to weigh in.
: I think there's a better way that she could have found to stage the scene if she wanted to go missing. The fact that that necklace is on the floor, I agree with the investigator. To me, that's very unusual especially if her apartment is nice and clean.
: Now, and the latex glove outside to me is obviously a very important piece. I definitely think that foul play was involved. I rarely have seen maliciously missing women. It's just … it's a rarity. If they go missing, it's because someone has abducted them or murdered them but it does happen.
: How often, you know, man or woman do you see somebody who is gone for 10 plus years with no trace at all and they turn up somewhere alive?
: It's not common at all. But it's possible. It does happen but it's not because they turned up themselves, it's because someone informed law enforcement or the family that they saw them.
: But it would be a case where a subject was missing, there was a police report filed but the circumstances of the disappearance showed them that there was a small amount of detail that would reveal that they went maliciously missing such as they were last seen walking, you know, walking away to somewhere. They went on a run and then went missing in the mountains. Something like that.
: People go missing on their own accord if they're suffering from schizophrenia and usually the reason they're missing is because they have such paranoia. They choose to follow those conspiracies in their head.
: It's typically a medical reason. Most people don't really understand that. They think, "Oh, they just went missing because their life got complicated." But really, a lot of adults go missing because they suffer from their first psychotic episode. They become transient and homeless on the streets.
: I would definitely lean foul play on this case because all of the signs are there really that she had multiple boyfriends. One of them got jealous and she let them in the apartment for some reason to talk probably and their intent was different from, you know, what she obviously expected.
: We dated for about five and a half years.
: When you say dated, was it a serious or a casual relationship?
: It was a commitment.
: That's Tara's ex boyfriend Marcus Harper in his first televised interview with Greta Van Susteren in 2005, just weeks after Tara disappeared.
: We did not date other people but I was honest with her when I said I had no intentions of marriage because of my career.
: Did there come a time when this dating relationship ended?
: Yes. She told me she felt like it was time for her to move on.
: And you've been dumped essentially?
: More or less.
: Were you upset by that at all?
: At first, we continued to remain friends but I felt a little rejected at first but I picked … brushed my shoulders off, went on and started dating other people. She asked several times about rekindling the relationship and I told her we could stay friends but I didn't want any kind of commitment.
: So then you were rejecting her essentially at this point?
: Pretty much.
: Did she accept that?
: How many times have you talked to the GBI?
: Four, five times.
: They've asked you for things and asked you to talk?
: And you provided all of it?
: When was the last time you actually saw her?
: The 14th of October. It was on a Friday morning.
: About what time?
: Around 9:00.
: And what were the circumstances?
: She woke me by knocking on my windows.
: Is that something common where she would knock on your windows or not? It's unusual?
: No, it's not unusual but she was crying and was upset about something. She was very rational and she told me that if she found out I was dating someone, she would commit suicide.
: The one person who has been vetted the most is her ex-boyfriend, Marcus Harper. He was absolutely tired of her. He had to hire a lawyer because … in the beginning because her sister, Anita, was going after him. Basically his timeline alibi basically clears him.
: He was right. From day one, Marcus Harper had an alibi. And it was a good one. His alibi begins that Saturday night at the White Horse Saloon in Fitzgerald.
: All right. We're live here in the Wild Horse. Final score of the Fitzgerald, Ocilla game, 56-19.
: 56-19 Fitzgerald.
: I decided to pay this place a visit, maybe have a couple beers. I made some small talk with people at the bar. And best believe, they all had their own theory about Tara.
: Basically, we were just all talking and he was like, "Yeah, you know, Tara Grinstead. I know what happened." I don't know if he was joking but all the other guys said that he was acting like really serious.
: I heard a rumor she was out at boones, somebody followed her and I left. I believe it was all rumor and bullshit. Some people say the ex-boyfriend, some people say it's somebody who admire her.
: So what was Marcus Harper's rock solid alibi?
: October 22nd, 2005, the night of Tara's disappearance, Marcus Harper left the bar called the White Horse Saloon in Fitzgerald sometime after 1 AM and drove to Ocilla. He was looking for his friend Sergeant Shawn Fletcher, an Ocilla police officer.
: Sean Fletcher had known both Marcus and Tara. In fact, he was one of the officers who responded to the call at Tara's house earlier that year when Anthony Vickers was arrested for disorderly conduct. At around 1:49 AM according to the account Sean gave to authorities, he received a call from the dispatcher telling him that Marcus was looking for him.
: Sean contacted Marcus and the two joined up. In the course of the next hour, Sean had at least one conversation with another police officer. Shortly after 2:45 AM, Fletcher was summoned to a house on West 4th Street where a local man named Bennie Merritt who was known for his erratic behavior had allegedly walked inside someone's house and had refused to leave.
: Marcus joined Sean on that call. By the time they arrived, Bennie Merritt was gone. A few minutes later, Sean and Marcus left the residence and searched for him. Authorities reported that the man appeared intoxicated and was later apprehended by a sheriff's deputy after he frightened the night clerk at a local gas station about a mile outside of Ocilla.
: According to records reviewed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, both Sean and Marcus responded to this call at the gas station and by the time they were done, it was 4:28 AM. A few minutes later, Marcus claims he headed home to sleep. Marcus Harper's mother also vouched for his return home that night around 5 AM and said he went straight to bed.
: I put in one more records request with Ocilla PD. I wanted the reports on Bennie Merritt, just to make sure all the times added up. It was pretty convenient to be with an Ocilla officer during the time Tara likely disappeared but I can't disprove that either. When all this was happening, investigators were pressed for answers. They started searching everywhere but they found nothing.
: My grimness fueled by the frustration of searching nearly 400 square miles of alligator infested waters, sprawling farmland and tangled forest.
: If she's in here, she likes to be on top.
: To cover this whole county, it's probably gonna take us another 7 to 10 days. This county is like 380 square miles. We only got like 9000 people in here.
: The Ocilla and Irwin County community undertook the most extensive search I've ever been associated with in my career.
: We searched fields. We searched swamps. We searched abandoned buildings. This is actually a case where we don't even know where the haystack is to look for the needle.
: Part of the initial search for Tara was a K9 unit, tons of dogs trained to sniff out Tara's scent. Tracy Underwood is the trainer that led this part of the investigation.
: Dogs can be trained and are trained to find people both dead and alive. In this case, I had dogs that were trained to do both. So the initial response was of course, you know, unless we find evidence that tells us otherwise, we assume that the person we're looking for is alive.
: Unfortunately, you know, being a week from the time she was last seen as far as tracking, after a week especially in, you know, this type of hot South Georgia weather with the sun and dry conditions that we had back then, if she did just walk away from her home, the scent for tracking dog after a week would be totally gone.
: Oh, wow.
: We just did what we call area searches. So we just took the dogs to an area and had them check the area. Not so much for a track but just an area to see if they could pick up any human scent.
: The other thing that's important to note, Payne, about dogs is that the dogs always tell us two things. They'll tell us where something is but what is just as important and then sometimes even more important is that they tell us where something isn't.
: We searched for over a year for this individual in North Georgia and we searched 28 different places over that year. And long story short, we winded up finding him on the 29th search.
: The dogs were 100 percent correct. They told us in all those previous 28 times we searched,"Guys, I don't know where he is but he's not here.".
: So that would certainly, and did apply to Tara's case, and would continue applying to her case if we do search for her again.
: So what were the results of the initial search for Tara?
: We've been asked to go down there over the years. I would dare say at least 20 or 30 times we've been down there searching in different places and we searched hundreds and hundreds of acres. I want to say 30 searches, that means 30 times we went down there and we may have searched, you know, 10 different places in one day.
: With all of that, the only thing that the dogs showed any indication to was a burned house that had burnt down actually when we were down there. And they did alert there at the burnt remains there at the house.
: When dogs do "alert" or indicate something, we have to look and investigate and say, "Hey. Is it something that's related to this case or is it totally unrelated to what we're looking for? Why did the dogs alert or indicate in this area at this spot? Is it related to our case?" In this situation, we determined that they were responding to some septic lines or sewage because it was an old house with exposed pipes and things like that.
: Based on the searches you guys did, you know, throughout Ocilla and the Irwin County area, do you think that it's possible Tara's body is still there and it was missed or the right area wasn't searched?
: Well, I will say this, Payne. You can't rule out any area 100 percent until you find the person. There's always that possibility, absolutely, but the search efforts and everything and all the resources that were used, is she there? The probability of that would be I think pretty low. But you can't clear an area 100 percent until the person has been found.
: I've been doing this for about 25 years. I would say about 99 percent of these cases, they're pretty black and white. And I would say Tara's case is that rare exception. Can we definitively say she was kidnapped? Can we definitively say that she just walked away? Can we definitively say that she started a new life somewhere? That's a question that really can't be definitively answered.
: Personal and professional opinion, do I think it's ever going to be solved? I do. You know, we all still have to have that hope. However long it takes, Payne, we're in it for the duration.
: If the officials called me or the family called me today even after 11 years, I would get in the car, go down there with the dogs and do whatever I can. No family ever thinks that they're going to be living this nightmare and certainly not living it after 11 years.
: I got my reports back from Ocilla PD on Bennie Merritt. I requested literally every report they have on him. I wanted to crosscheck the time of each incident that Marcus and Sean responded to that night.
: I have four reports on Bennie Merritt but not a single one of these happened on Saturday night. None of them. What I'm about to read you has never been released to the public, Tara's e-mails.
: On October 14th, Tara sent Marcus's mom an e-mail. On the bottom paragraph, Tara says this, "Just remind Marcus what I said about something happening to me or even him. He leaves it like this and something may happen to me."
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