FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A petition demanding investigators reopen an inquiry into the death of a Forsyth County mother of five now has nearly half-a-million signatures.
Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik first reported last year on the suspicious death of Tamla Horsford in November 2018.
Horsford was found dead after an “adult slumber party” at a North Forsyth County home, and investigators concluded she accidentally fell off a deck to her death. But her friends and family have always disputed the results.
Ashley Harris started a petition seeking to reopen the case.
“I feel, and a lot of other people feel, that there are a lot of inconsistencies with people that were present and (how) the overall investigation was handled,” she said. “It’s overwhelming in a sense that so many people near and far feel the same way that I do about this case and so passionately about it.”
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On Saturday, Petchenik obtained a letter that family attorney, Ralph Fernandez, sent the Horsford family in which he concluded there was a “strong possibility” Horsford’s death was the result of homicide.
“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 stated. “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.”
Fernandez laid out a number of issues he had with how the case was initially investigated.
“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,” according to the letter. “There was one x-ray, yet the injury noted as the cause of death appears nowhere.”
In the letter, Fernandez invoked the Ahmaud Arbery case to highlight what he feels are long-standing 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.
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 statement from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on 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.”