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AJC Watchdog: Tara Grinstead podcast challenges secrecy in criminal investigations

An Atlanta-based podcaster who spent months digging into the 2005 disappearance of Ocilla school teacher Tara Grinstead is asking why state law kept the official investigation secret.

Payne Lindsey, whose “Up and Vanished” podcast quickly became one of the nation’s most popular downloads after he started it last August, said he tried to get the official file into Grinstead’s disappearance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, but he had no luck. State open records law allows police to withhold files in pending investigations.

“My reasoning was how can you claim this is an open investigation?” he said.

Grinstead went missing nearly 12 years ago and when he started the podcast there seemed to be little prospect the case would be solved. Nancy Grace, a former prosecutor and talk show host, agrees with Lindsey that cold case files should be open when she appeared as a guest on his podcast.

“I think that we have closed investigative files for a reason,” Grace said. “However, once a case goes cold and police aren’t getting answers I really don’t see why the entire case file is kept secret.”

Last month, the GBI announced they had arrested a suspect based on a fresh tip. A second arrest of an alleged accomplice came shortly thereafter. Neither man had been among those formerly considered suspects.

For more on how “Up and Vanished” is challenging Georgia’s secret criminal files, read this week’s AJC Watchdog column here.

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