Forsyth County

Case file reveals never-before-seen photos in mother of 5's death investigation

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County sheriff has closed the case of a mother of five who fell off a balcony and died at a house party, but the family's attorney wants to talk to him.

Attorney Ralph Fernandez is representing Tamla Horsford’s family.

Fernandez told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik on Friday that although the case is closed, his work is just beginning.

After filing an open records request, Petchenik was able to get his hands on the entire case file -- a file Fernandez will be going through with a fine-toothed comb.

"You've got to keep an open mind, even when you are walking through a minefield,” Fernandez said.

When asked if he thought the case was closed prematurely, Fernandez said, “I can’t pass judgment until I review what they have.”

Horsford died last November after attending an overnight sleepover at a Forsyth County home.

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation autopsy says the mother of five suffered a broken neck after she accidentally fell from a balcony.

The case file included previously unseen photos of the backyard where partygoers found Horsford’s body and transcriptions of interviews with witnesses, including the home's owner.


She told detectives Horsford "didn't seem drunk at all" before everyone went to sleep the night before.
When detectives asked the homeowner's boyfriend, Jose Barrera, if he threw her over the rail, he said,

“No, I did not,” and denied anyone else would have, either.

The case came to light after Petchenik learned that Barrera, who worked as a court reporter, was fired for misusing his job to access the incident report during an active investigation.

"What jumps out in this case is there are some inconsistencies in the initial statements that were made by individuals at the scene,” Fernandez said.

The GBI toxicology report says Horsford had a blood alcohol level nearly three time the legal limit to drive in Georgia and had THC and Xanax in her system.

Investigators believe that contributed to her fall.

Fernandez says the family isn't happy with how the Sheriff's Office notified them of the case's conclusion. He says her husband and father got calls from a detective about an hour before a news conference to say the case was closed and telling them how to get the file.

A sheriff's spokesman confirms that's how it went down but says the sheriff insisted the family be notified before Wednesday’s news conference.