Black woman’s party death gets renewed scrutiny in Georgia
CUMMING, Ga. (AP) — The 2018 death of a Black woman during a sleepover party for adults is getting renewed attention since authorities launched a new investigation.
The family of 40-year-old Tamla Horsford has long suspected foul play after she was found dead in the backyard of a home about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northeast of Atlanta on Nov. 4, 2018. Forsyth County sheriff’s investigators concluded last year that she died after accidentally falling from a second-story deck.
An autopsy found injuries to the woman’s head, neck and torso that detectives said were consistent with a fall. The wounds included a laceration to her heart. A toxicology screening found the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in her system, along with marijuana and a blood-alcohol level of .238 — roughly three times the limit to legally drive a car. The sheriff officially closed his case in February 2019.
Still, questions about Horsford’s death persisted on social media and calls to reopen the case gained traction amid the recent outcry over social injustice. Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to take a fresh look over the summer. GBI Director Vic Reynolds agreed.
No new details have been released since the GBI launched its investigation in June. GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles on Thursday said the agency had “no updates to report.”
Ralph Fernandez, an attorney for Horsford’s family, he’s “trying to keep an open mind” that the new investigation will be thorough. But a GBI medical examiner conducted the autopsy on Horsford, and Fernandez questions its findings.
“The case is compromised from start to finish,” Fernandez said in phone interview. “I am not saying that somebody killed her. I am saying the overwhelming probability is that this was foul play and it was mishandled.”
Among other things, scratches on Horsford’s hands and wrists appear to be “defensive wounds” as if she was fending off an attack, Fernandez said. He said the home where Horsford died had security cameras, yet the owner claimed they weren’t recording the night of her death.
Also one man who was at the house that night used a computer at his job in the Forsyth County court system to access a sheriff’s office report on Horsford’s death, officials said. The man was fired, the Forsyth County News reported.
“It’s unfortunate that it has to take other people’s heartbreak and other people’s loss for the proper attention to be given this case involving my sister,” Horsford’s sister, Summer St. Jour Jones, told CNN in a recent interview.
She described her sister — a mother of five boys — as a “supermom” who always put her family first. St. Jour Jones said she never saw her sister get “sloppy drunk and incoherent.”