Tamla Horsford: Family, friends skeptical of circumstances of mother’s death at overnight party

This still from a video obtained by WSB shows Tamla Horsford at the November 2018 adult slumber party where she was found dead.

Credit: WSBTV.com

Credit: WSBTV.com

Family and friends are looking for answers after the death of a mother of five in the backyard of a Cumming, Georgia, home.

Tamla Horsford died Nov. 4, 2018 at age 40. Authorities said she was at an overnight party at the home. Jose Barrera, a witness, said he believed she fell off a balcony during an adult slumber party.

The party was held at Barrera's girlfriend house. According to police reports, Barrera found Horsford lying face down in the backyard unresponsive. WSB obtained 911 calls made by Barrera after finding Horsford.

“She’s lying in the yard, basically on the patio downstairs. ...She’s not moving one bit. She's not breathing,” he told dispatchers.

"I’m noticing a small cut on her right wrist,” he said. “She’s not breathing whatsoever. I don’t know if this cut was self-inflicted.”

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WSB obtained video showing Horsford in the home before her death.

The coroner’s death certificate listed Horsford’s death as an accident. The report said that a fall from a deck caused multiple blunt force injuries and “acute ethanol intoxication” was a contributing factor, but Michelle Graves told WSB she believes something else happened to her best friend. Horford’s family hired another medical examiner who found extensive injuries all over her body.

"It's impossible to get the injuries that she had from one fall," Graves said.

Forsyth County News reported Feb. 8 Barrera was fired from his job as a pre-trial services officer with the Forsyth County Court system Dec. 20, 2018. Days earlier, he was placed on leave by Court Administrator Robin S. Rooks.

According to a Dec. 17, 2018 letter from Rooks to Barrera, he was placed on leave during  an “investigation pertaining to you using your position to access confidential files on a current investigation surrounding a death in which you were a witness.”

In the termination letter, Rooks wrote, he lost confidence in Barrera’s ability to do his job.

A Feb. 1 Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office incident report appears to allege that Barrera may have used his position to gain access to information on Graves.

According to FCN, Graves said in the report that "she believes personal information about her home, work and cell phone numbers, home address, work address and driver's license, along with information about her height, weight and extended family, had been found on several court documents."

Barrera has denied those claims, FCN reported.

Thousands on social media have called for further investigation into Horsford’s death with hashtags #TamlaHorsford and #JusticeForTamlaHorsford.

"We're glad we're not the only ones who feel there's something awry with the story and with how she lost her life," Graves told WSB.

The attorney for the owner of the home where the death happened issued the following statement to WSB:

"At this time, our client, as well as each person who was present on November 4, 2018, has completely cooperated with law enforcement officers in attempting to give the family and friends answers with regards to the tragic death of Tamla Horsford. Every aspect of our client's life has been investigated. She has provided answers to every question asked by the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office. Although the investigation has not been closed, to the best of our knowledge, Ms. Horsford's death certificate has been issued by the Forsyth County Coroner.

"According to the Coroner, the official cause of death was determined to have been caused by an accidental fall from a residential deck. In addition, the Death Certificate also states that acute ethanol intoxication was a significant condition contributing to Mrs. Horsford's death.

"At this time, each of the partygoers and their families have received death threats on various social media postings. The threats need to stop. This tragic accident is exactly that, an accident. It is unfortunate, sad, and unbelievably heartbreaking to her family and friends. However, certain very vocal friends and family members of Mrs. Horsford have been describing this accident as a
'murder.' Nothing could be farther from the truth.

"We are asking for the community and media to please respect the privacy and safety of our client and others who were at the party."

Officials with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office say they recently got toxicology reports and expect to have answers soon.

"The Sheriff's Office has conducted a comprehensive and exhaustive investigation into the death and has just recently received the results of the autopsy and toxicology reports from the GBI Medical Examiner's office," the department said in a Monday news release. "Death investigation cannot be closed until such time as the official results of the Forsyth County Coroner's Office and the GBI Medical Examiner's Office have been received and reviewed.

“We are conducting a thorough review of the evidence, interviews and forensic/medical findings and anticipate a final report on this investigation later this week pending any new evidence being discovered. At this time, this investigation still remains an active case.

“The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office would like to extend our deepest sympathy to Mrs. Horsford’s family and friends for this tragic loss.”

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