OCILLA -- Although the search for Tara Grinstead has been condensed, Ocilla Police Chief Billy Hancock said Wednesday that the search for the missing teacher will continue.
After canvassing all of Ocilla and Irwin County with more than 60 law enforcement agencies and hundreds of volunteers, the police have still found few clues to the whereabouts of the Irwin County High School teacher, last seen Oct. 22.
Since all of the county has been searched, police are reducing the scope of the search. Although they will continue to investigate leads and tips, a day-to-day search of all the county has been completed.
"We're still continuing the investigation and we're not giving up the search to find Miss Grinstead," said Hancock. "The only thing that changed is that we have completed our blanket search of the community and Irwin County."
The blanket search yielded some potential clues, but to date, none of them have led to finding Grinstead. Hancock said that several articles of clothing have been found during the search, but none of them could be matched conclusively to the missing teacher.
The search has also resulted in some unexpected discoveries unrelated to the missing person case. Searchers found a patch of marijuana near Irwinville that led to an arrest, and a car that had been stolen out of Conyers was also recovered during the search.
Volunteers will continue to search the county, according to sources at the Find Tara Command Post, the Irwin County Senior Citizens Center.
Hancock said that Grinstead's disappearance is still being handled as a missing person case.
"We're not ruling anything out," he said. "We're trying to gather any information that we possibly can."
The reward for any information leading to Grinstead's safe return has been set at $80,000. The money was raised through donations by concerned residents and area businesses.
Grinstead was last seen Saturday, Oct. 22, when she helped some of her students prepare for the Miss Sweet Potato Pageant at the Grand Theatre in Fitzgerald and then attended a barbecue at a former Irwin County superintendent's home.
The clothes she wore that night were found at her home the following Monday after neighbors realized they had not seen signs that she was at home the day before. The neighbors investigated and, finding the house empty, called the high school, where Grinstead is an 11th-grade U.S. history teacher. School officials said that Grinstead did not report to the school, so the neighbors called police.
The search began that day and has continued each day since. On some days, more than 300 searchers scoured the county using four wheelers, horses, search dogs, helicopters and any tool available.
A Web site, www.findtara.com, and a Tara Blog, a Web-based log site, were started. The senior citizens center was transformed into a search headquarters and candlelight vigils have been held. Friends, family members and co-workers have made pleas through local and national media for information on Grinstead's location.
Still, no sign of the missing teacher has been found.
Grinstead is about five feet, three inches tall, weighs about 115 pounds and has brown hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information should call her family's anonymous tip line at (912) 386-2564 or the Ocilla Police Department at (229) 468-7494 or its tip line at (229) 468-TIPS (8477).
To contact reporter Dusty Vassey, call 382-4321, ext. 208.
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