Forsyth County

Lost evidence in lawsuit related to mom's death prompts Forsyth County rule change

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — One year after the mysterious death of a Forsyth County mother at a local house party, a piece of evidence in a related civil lawsuit has gone missing, officials confirm to Channel 2 Action News.

They also confirm it's prompted a policy change at the courthouse.

Investigators concluded Tamla Horsford's death was not the result of foul play after a fall from a second story deck last November, but her friends and family believe something happened to her.

Close friend Michelle Graves has been outspoken in her belief Horsford's death was no accident, citing an independent medical examiner's report that found extensive injuries to her body.

Her death sparked outrage on social media, with people posting the hashtags #TamlaHorsford and #JusticeForTamlaHorsford.

Several of the party guests have filed a defamation lawsuit against Graves, arguing she's wrongly accusing them of a crime.

"The judge said he wanted to look through…specific things from my Facebook, which included my stories, my pages, my posts and my groups," Graves told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik.

She said she downloaded more than a year's worth of social media posts onto a thumb drive and dropped them off at the Forsyth County Courthouse in late September.

"I found out on October 7th, the day it was actually due, that they never received (it)," she said.  "It's disappeared."

Graves said she was able to replicate the information and turned it again, this time ensuring the judge received it, but she's concerned about what happened to the original drive.

"It's all my personal stuff, Facebook stuff," she said.  "Anyone who has commented on my stuff.  All my friends, all their information, anything about this is out there."

Petchenik reached out to the Forsyth County Clerk, who sent him this e-mailed statement:

"We searched for the envelope and flash drive for days.  This item was not tagged evidence in a case and had not been accepted by the court as evidence.  The envelope with the flash drive enclosed was dropped off at one of our customer service windows.  It was written on the envelope that it be delivered to a Court Administration employee and to the attention of a visiting senior judge assigned to the case.

The senior judge does not have an office in our building, and had requested a party to the case drop off the information on the drive for his review.  As a courtesy to the public, we typically accepted items at our windows for the other offices in the courthouse, placed the items in individual mail boxes designated for each office, and delivered those items in our daily runs to drop off and pick up paperwork from each of the other offices.

We have searched our entire office, my employees desks, the hallways, and the elevators for this envelope.

We have requested every office in the courthouse look for the envelope in their respective areas.  We have contacted the county mail room across the street to inquire if the envelope had somehow landed in their area.  All of this searching has not produced the envelope and flash drive.

We provided Ms. Graves with a new blank flash drive, and assisted her in redownloading her Facebook information and Facebook data using our public computers to the new flash drive. She then personally took the new flash drive to Court Administration on the 4th Floor.  I am assuming the flash drive was received and held for the judge's review but cannot confirm that for you."

Allen said the incident prompted a policy change.  His office will no longer accept non-stamped evidence at the courthouse.

"I absolutely think this was stolen," Graves said.  "It's been a point of contention from the day my friend passed away.  They've been looking at my Facebook, the police have been looking at it, the attorneys, the people at the party."

An attorney representing the plaintiffs in the defamation case declined to comment about the evidence.