FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — In an explosive letter, the attorney for the family of Tamla Horsford, a Forsyth County woman who died under mysterious circumstances at a house party in 2018, says his review of evidence “reflects that homicide is a strong possibility.”
Horsford, a mother of 5, was found dead in the backyard in November 2018, the morning after she attended an “adult slumber party.”
The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office announced last February they were closing the case because investigators had found no evidence of foul play in Horsford's death.
In a letter obtained by Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik on Saturday to the Horsford family, attorney Ralph Fernandez said his office has done an exhaustive review of the case and believes Tamla was killed.
“It appears Tamla was involved in a struggle.There were abrasions consistent with that scenario. There were parallel scratches to one arm. Since they were fresh, photos would not have proven recent use of defensive force,” the letter said. “There was one x-ray, yet the injury noted as the cause of death appears nowhere.”
Fernandez laid out a number of issues he had with how the case was initially investigated.
“Witness statements are in conflict. A potential subject handled the body as well as the evidence prior to law enforcement arriving. Evidence was disposed of and no inquiry followed.The scene was not preserved,” the letter said. “A remarkable fact is that there were no photographs taken during the autopsy of Tamla’s body.This had to have been done at someone’s directive because such a practice is unheard of.”
During the letter, Fernandez invoked the Ahmaud Arbery case to highlight what he feels are longstanding issues when it comes to law enforcement investigating the deaths of African Americans.
“Here we are fighting an uphill battle because those who wear the badges were entrusted with the investigatory task, failed you. But this is not over,” Fernandez wrote.
Horsford's friend, Michelle Graves, has been outspoken about believing that her friend's death was not an accident.
"They're totally lying," Graves said on a phone call with Petchenik last February. "They're not out of the woods, because this was not an accident."
Petchenik contacted the attorney for the party-goers involved in the investigation, but so far has not heard back.
He also contacted the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office for comment. They sent him a statement, saying:
“The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the death of Tamla Horsford. Evidence from the incident along with the findings from the Georgia Medical Examiner’s Office was utilized to come to the conclusion of the case. At the request of the family, we took another look into the evidence and also had an independent agency, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, look over the findings. No additional information was found.
“In a continued effort to remain transparent, we welcome any new information from the Attorney’s Office handling the case for the family. To date, we have received none. We’re prepared to have an independent Investigative authority such as, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, to reopen the investigation if new information is provided.”
Petchenik received this state from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Monday:
“The GBI Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy on Tamla Horsford. As part of the autopsy, photographs were taken, in addition to review of scene photographs. As was done in this case, the GBI documents autopsies in various ways that include photos. We stand behind our original findings which are available upon request through GBI’s Open Records Unit.”
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