Over a year after the case was officially closed, authorities re-opened their investigation into the mysterious death of Forsyth, Georgia resident Tamla Horsford on Tuesday. On November 3, 2018, Horsford attended an adult sleepover party for her friend’s birthday. The next morning, at 7:30 a.m., the 40-year-old mother was found laying unresponsive in her friend’s back yard. Following an autopsy, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office concluded that Horsford had fallen from a second-story balcony — thereby ruling the death an accident.
The autopsy revealed that Horsford’s blood alcohol level was nearly three times Georgia’s legal driving limit (.238) and that she had traces of Xanax and marijuana in her system. However, Horsford’s sister, Summer St. Jour Jones, assured that she had never seen Horsford “sloppy drunk and incoherent, so I doubt that she would pick a sleepover with people she was just getting to know to start behaving that way.”
Moreover, the Horsford family attorney, Ralph Fernandez, stated that the police never provided any autopsy photos despite his repeated requests. In Fernandez’s opinion, the circumstances surrounding Horsford’s death point more toward a homicide than an accident. To support his supposition, Fernandez has cited that, “the placement of the body, the multitude of injuries, what I would consider to be defensive injuries, the inexplicable post-mortem bleeding,” are all signifiers of foul play.
Fernandez is not the only one to find the nature of Horsford’s case to be suspicious. Following the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others, the public discourse surrounding race, politics, and equal treatment under the law has significantly intensified in recent months. As a result, Horsford’s mysterious death has sparked a firestorm of social media posts denouncing the quick closure of her case.
Amongst the most popular posts are tweets that quote an excerpt of an article from YourBlackWorld.net. The article emphasizes that Horsford was the only Black woman who attended the sleepover “with 7 white women who were supposedly her friends. The “all women” sleepover was eventually crashed by 3 white men … Tamla’s family believe they are covering up the murder … SAY HER NAME.” Because the “#SayHerName” movement has now been linked to Horsford, issues of racial injustice have been strongly associated with her death.
In addition to publicly calling attention to the dubious nature of Horsford’s death, social media has also been used to threaten the lives of the homeowner, her boyfriend, and several of the sleepover attendees. The homeowner’s boyfriend, Jose Barrera, contacted 911 to report the discovery of Horsford’s lifeless body — yet, the call was made over an hour after she was initially found by the homeowner’s aunt. Furthermore, Barrera was placed on administrative leave in December of 2018 after he used his position as a pretrial services officer for the Forsyth County Court system to access confidential files on the investigation into Horsford’s death.
Despite the re-opening of the investigation, Horsford’s family is not satisfied. Speaking out for the first time in two years, St. Jour Jones pleaded, “we need answers that make sense. None of this makes sense. None of it.”