Grinstead birthday marks fourth year

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

OCILLA -- Today marks what would have been the 35th birthday of Tara Grinstead, a beloved high school teacher and former Miss Tifton who vanished without a trace October 22, 2005.

Four years since she last showed up for school, investigators insist the case is still active, with leads actively being pursued and tips being taken almost monthly.

"It's still an ongoing investigation," GBI Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Craig Rotter said. "We're getting calls and tips from the various Web sites out there that are dedicated to her. We haven't given up."

And while the horses, four-wheeled vehicles and scores of searchers that scoured the fields and woods following her disappearance no longer trod through the countryside hoping for a sign of the teacher, in cyberspace, the search continues.

Google "Tara Grinstead," and her name alone pulls up 30,100 results.

On the popular social networking site Facebook, Grinstead tribute pages dot the cybersphere, urging anyone with information to call the GBI, or tip lines set up for the Ocilla Police Department and Irwin County Sheriff's Office.

On the "Justice for Tara" Facebook page, more than 913 users have subscribed to monitor the page and postings, some as recent as Friday, offer hope and consolation to a family and community still working to piece together a mystery that still haunts law enforcement.

One user turned the family toward God as a means for comfort while reminding those behind her disappearance that justice will come on this world or in the next, saying "God has always heard your prayers, and will give you the peace that surpasses all understanding, to the people behind this, behind this, I pray that God deals with you in His way."

Another user recalled her time with Grinstead, saying "Tara made an impression in my life, she taught me compassion for families that have loved ones missing. I will always remember her and her sweet family with love and I think of her everyday."

Despite massive searches, national media attention and a $200,000 reward, nothing major has materialized during the Grinstead investigation.

Rotter said that despite the time that has past and the unlikelihood that Grinstead would still be alive, the GBI continues to treat the case as a missing person investigation.

Regardless, GBI investigators and her friends both real and on social networking sites remain hopeful that one day soon, someone who knows what happened to Grinstead will come forward with that one tip that will break the case open.

"We will always be looking for you , and we will never give up. I love you and miss you," a family member says in a post.