True Crime: The woman who went to a slumber party and never returned
Sudden death can be tragic, but it can be even more disheartening when you have more questions than answers. The investigation of Tamla Horsford’s death has been called into question after reports revealed police improperly handled her case & suspicious activities from witnesses who went to the same party Horsford attended the night of her death came to light.
After speculation grew, and more people learned about the case, there has been a burst of public outcry against the Forsyth County Police & the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). With so many questions & so little answers, many believe a new investigation should be opened to determine what actually happened to Tamla Horsford.
Here’s everything we know about Tamla Horsford’s untimely death and the suspicious activity surrounding her case.
A mother who died young
Tamla Horsford was forty years old when she died. She was born in the Caribbean and moved to the Bronx when she was eleven. Horsford and her husband, Leander Horsford, have five sons together along with a step-daughter from her husband’s previous relationship.
Horsford moved with her family to Cumming, Georgia five years before her death, according to Rolling Stone. She had her last meal with them on November 3, 2018, before heading out to the party.
The night of the party
At 8:30 p.m., Horsford arrived at Jeanne Meyers’s house. She was celebrating Meyers’s birthday with a group of moms and, to ensure no one would drink & drive, the party was a sleepover. Though only eight were planning on spending the night, twelve guests were at the party, including Horsford. Horsford, however, was the only Black woman at the party.
Horsford brought a bottle of tequila for the celebration and the group of moms decided to watch a football game. Tom Smith & Jose Barrera, the only men who stayed at the party, spent the majority of the party in the basement. Horsford smoked cigarettes & marijuana outside throughout the night. Despite this, photos and witness testimonies stated Horsford didn’t appear drunk and seemed particularly happy all night.
The men eventually joined the party upstairs with a game of Cards Against Humanity before people started to go to bed. Bridget Fuller was the last person to see Horsford before she was picked up at 1:47 a.m. Fuller stated Horsford was planning on going to bed shortly after Fuller left. Security footage suggests Horsford went to the balcony to smoke at around 1:57 a.m.
The morning after
The next morning, at around 8:45 a.m. Madeline Lombardi found Horsford laying in the grass, not moving. Meyers & Barrera called 911 just before 9 a.m., telling them she thought Horsford fell off the balcony. Barrera, confused, moved Horsford’s leg to see if she was still alive and touched a nearby lighter & cigarette.
When police arrived, Horsford was pronounced dead at the scene and police initially believed the death was an accident. Because there wasn’t any sign of foul play, the police neglected to fingerprint the lighter, didn’t test the bottle of tequila Horsford had been drinking, didn’t test for sexual assault, and didn’t take fingernail clippings.
Other questionable evidence came forward when it was revealed the security cameras stopped recording at some point when the batteries died. The scene itself was never fully secured, either.
Police blame alcohol and cannabis
Police ended the case in February 2020, concluding Horsford’s death was an accident. The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office believed her high intoxication level, with a combined Blood Alcohol Content being three times above the legal limit to drive and her positive tests for THC & Alprazolam, was the main contribution to Horsford’s fall, according to Rolling Stone.
People were unsatisfied with this conclusion, however, especially since witnesses claimed Horsford didn’t appear to be heavily intoxicated. According to the Rolling Stone, one of the party’s attendees, Stacy Smith, told the police she tried to test the theory of Horsford falling after leaning too much over the balcony, but it didn’t make sense. Smith also emphasized she didn’t see Horsford getting sick or acting drunk.
Friends & family also point to the number of injuries the autopsy uncovered. The Rolling Stone reported Horsford had blunt force trauma in multiple areas, abrasions & cuts, a broken neck, a dislocated wrist, a laceration on her heart, and more. Lead investigator Mike Christian also questioned how Horsford’s body was positioned after the fall.
Too many questions
Other questions were brought up, convincing more people to push for a new investigation of Horsford’s case. Many have questioned how a twenty-foot balcony can kill someone or how no one heard Horsford fall.
Another red flag was brought up when Jose Barrera, Jeanne Meyers’s boyfriend, was fired in February 2019 for using his position to illegally access files associated with the Horsford case, according to Rolling Stone. The Root also reported Barrera attempted to leak information about Horsford’s friend who had been critical about the party’s guests, even suggesting they had something to do with Horsford’s death.
Being the only woman of color at the party, some have speculated the case has racial undertones, according to Vibe. Some people have cited Forsyth County’s racist past, including a “racial cleansing” in 1912 & a white supremacy gathering in 1987.
Reopening the Case
While adovcates for Horsford have been trying to reopen the case for a while, support boomed during the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd. Celebrities acknowledged the case on social media and a Change.org petition garnered over 680,000 signatures, asking for a reopening of the case.
Ralph Fernandez, a Tampa lawyer representing Horsford’s family, made a number of public statements about the case and gave his reasons for believing Horsford’s death was more than just an accident, according to Rolling Stone. Fernandez points to the abrasions, claiming they’re defensive wounds, conflicting witness statements, and the improper investigation, citing the unpreserved scene & lack of autopsy photos.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office officially asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to reopen the case on June 12, 2020, hours after Fernandez criticized the FCSO for not releasing autopsy photos. Fernandez is still skeptical of the FCSO, calling them “compromised”, according to Rolling Stone. However, Rolling Stone reported the GBI will be “looking at everything”.