Podcast solves Georgia’s biggest case file

Photo courtesy of stitcher.com

Up and Vanished explores strange disappearance
Photo courtesy of stitcher.com

Tara Grinstead, a 30-year-old high school history teacher and former beauty pageant queen, disappeared unexpectedly on Oct. 23, 2005. Grinstead left behind a nearly flawless crime scene in her home in Ocilla, Georgia—a town with a population just shy of 3,200 people. Among the only things that were left behind were a necklace and a blue medical glove. News of her disappearance quickly spread, but her case remained unsolved, despite a continuous accumulation of new information by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). Grinstead’s disappearance became the largest case file in Georgia’s history.

After over 10 years of speculation in an unsolved case, it seemed that the people of Ocilla had lost hope of ever finding out what really happened to Grinstead—until Payne Lindsey came along.

Lindsey is the voice behind the Up and Vanished podcast. He is a filmmaker turned amateur investigative reporter and podcaster. In looking for cold cases and unsolved mysteries for ideas for a new film, he came across Grinstead’s case. A fan of NPR’s podcast Serial and Netflix’s Making a Murderer, Lindsey was instantly intrigued by this unsolved murder mystery. “I think there’s something about an unsolved case that intrigues everyone,” Lindsey said in the first episode of Up and Vanished titled “Cold as Alaska.”

In sharing his findings in his podcast, Lindsey was launched into superstardom in Ocilla and their mainstream media.

Up and Vanished might feel like a wannabe Serial—an investigative podcast with a similar premise. Hosted by NPR’s investigative reporter, Sarah Koenig, Serial explores a closed case where she believed the suspect was wrongfully convicted; however, the case was considered closed. The absence of closure in Grinstead’s case makes this podcast unique.

Lindsey weaves in a near perfect narrative of his own findings with interviews from those close to Grinstead as he tries to discover what really happened to her.

Listeners need not get comfortable while tuning in to Lindsey’s journey, as Up and Vanished doesn’t lack any surprises. The novelty of exploring an unsolved case lends itself to new information turning up at every corner. 

While the intense and captivating subject matter is engaging enough, the production is perfect too. The team behind Up and Vanished portray just how absurd this case is mixing in the right sound effects, pre-recorded phone calls, and eerie background music.

Paired with Lindsey’s unmatched eagerness to solve Grinstead’s case and an almost flawless production of each episode, Lindsey keeps listeners anxious for new information.

The only fault of Up and Vanished is toward the end of the series, when Lindsey’s passion clearly gets the best of him in responding to critiques of his findings from critical Ocilla residents. His response feels genuine, but also out of place and unprofessional. But, it certainly doesn’t stop his search for the truth.

In Feb. 2017, the GBI held a press conference announcing the arrest of Ryan Alexander Duke. Duke had confessed to the murder of Grinstead. Lindsey has been credited with keeping the public engaged in Grinstead’s case and ultimately aiding in helping indict a suspect in the case. Rest assured, this is hardly a spoiler.

Up and Vanished is a must-listen for everyone—those familiar with podcasts, and those who are not. Despite the solving of the case, Lindsey’s thorough investigation makes way for a binge-listening experience that listeners won’t want to break away from, not even for a second.

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