What happened to Tamla Horsford?

On November 4, 2018, Tamla was found dead in the backyard of her friend’s home in Cumming, Georgia.   

Tamla was born in the Caribbean in St Vincent and the Grenadines.  She lived there until 1989 when her family moved to the US – to the Bronx.  She ended up meeting Leander in Florida and they got married.  Leander had a daughter from a previous marriage.  They had five sons together, the youngest was only 4 when Tamla passed away at age 40 in 2018.  

Tamla’s family have said that she liked to laugh, dance and have fun.  Leander said that he was attracted to Tamla because of her warmth.  

I believe the family moved to Georgia around 5 years before Tamla died – so maybe around 2013?  They moved to Cumming in Forsyth County, which is around 40 miles NE of Atlanta.  Just as some demographic information, 96% of Forsyth County is white, according to 11alive.

Tamla seemed to have a large group of friends.  She had arranged with a bunch of them to have a ‘slumber party’ on November 3, 2018 at the home of Jeanne Meyers.  Jeanne had invited some moms who had met through the youth football league to come over for drinks.  She didn’t want anyone to drink and drive so she invited them all to sleep over.

Tamla arrived at Jeanne’s home at around 8.30pm that night.  She took a bottle of tequila with her and put her PJs on when she got there – a white onesie with paw prints on it.  There’s a now infamous photo that shows the women on a couch, all smiling and having a good time.   They watched the LSU – Alabama game and drank together.  Just as a note, I have read that Tamla took the tequila as a gift for Jeanne but ended up drinking it herself as apparently Jeanne didn’t like tequila?

Tamla was the only smoker at the party and she kept going out onto a balcony to smoke.  She also smoked weed at one point but Jeanne asked her to stop.  Jose (Jeanne’s boyfriend) was a pre-trial officer and did not approve of weed.  

The men ended up partying with the women.  They played Cards Against Humanity together – always a good time. 

At around 11.30pm, the guests who weren’t planning to stay began to leave.  I have read some reports that two women left, so maybe one of them changed their mind about staying.  

Jeanne and Jose headed to bed at around 1.30am.  Tamla stayed up.  Another guest named Bridget Fuller decided to head home and she was picked up by her husband at 1.47am.  Bridget has said that Tamla was eating gumbo and said that she was going to smoke one more cigarette before going to bed.

Jeanne’s house had a security system that registered when doors opened and closed.  

This info about the doors is from an article by 11alive.com:

Other attendees started leaving as the day went on.  One woman left at 4.10am to goto work and another left at 7.45am.  I believe another couple left  the house at around 8.30am.  

Jeanne’s aunt Madeline Lombardi lived at the house with them.  At around 8.45am, she went into the kitchen to get coffee.  She said that she looked out the window into the backyard and she saw a woman laying face down on the grass, not moving.  The woman was wearing a paw print white onesie.

Madeline went upstairs to find Jeanne to tell her.  She apparently used the wording of there being something wrong with Jeanne’s “friend from the islands.”Jeanne and Jose called 911 at 8.59am. They said “She’s not moving one bit. She’s not breathing. She’s completely face down in the yard. She is…stiff,” Jose told the dispatcher. “She was drinking, and […] it looks like — I’m guessing maybe she fell off the balcony,” Jeanne said.

Police arrived on scene at 9.07am. Tamla was pronounced dead on the scene.  Her body was sent to the GBI Medical Examiner for investigation.

The Forsyth County Sheriff began to investigate Tamla’s death as an accident.  They believed that she had fallen from the second-story deck. 

This info is from the Crime Scene report. You can read the whole report here.

On November 04, 2018 I responded to 4450 Woodlet Court in reference to a death

investigation per the request of Detective Christian. Upon arrival at approximately 1014

hours I met with Deputy Miller who informed me that a party was held at the

aforementioned address the night previous. The decedent was discovered in the

backyard of the residence on this morning when the residents awoke and began the

cleanup process.

Overall photographs of the residence exterior were taken. The residence was a multilevel building with attached garage and fenced in backyard. A covered wooden deck

was observed off of the upper-level at the rear of the residence. I made entry to the

residence via the front door.

My path of travel through the residence to the back upper-level deck was

photographically documented. The front door opened to a foyer with a hall ahead. At the

carpet line at the end of the hall a pink in color back and black jacket were observed. To

the right at the end of the hall was access to the kitchen and dinette. The door to the

exterior upper-level deck was observed off of the dinette. Overall photographs of the

Upper-level deck were taken. A stair way to the lower-level patio was observed at the

far left end of the deck. The decedent was observed just within the grass line of the yard

approximately midway off of the patio.

The decent was clad in a white in color one-piece pajama set with gray in color paw

prints, and black and red socks with multi-colored star pattern. The decedent was in the

prone position with legs extended straight. The left arm was along the side of the body

and bent at an obtuse angle at the elbow placing the hand away from the body. The

right arm was extended down the side of the body.

A rough field sketch was generated and measurements were taken.

Within in the pink bag at the carpet line of the living room, previously mentioned, was

observed to contain clothing a black in color wallet as well as an additional purple in

color bag. The purple in color bag was observed to contain miscellaneous contents

including a clear plastic bag containing green leafy material (item #2) which was

collected for destruction. Within the black wallet a Florida driver’s license, a bank

statement and one dollar of US currency were observed and photographically


In the bar area located in the dinette area of the residence a blue in color bottle labeled

to contain tequila. It was stated by the residents that the bottle was brought to the

residence by the decedent and that the decedent was the only individual known to have

consumed the liquid within. The bottle was observed to be approximately one eighth

(1/8) full. The bottle was taken into the possession of the coroner to be transported with

the body to the GBI.

The scene was departed at approximately 1142 hours.

You can read Tamla’s autopsy here.

So just as a summary to the toxicology report, Tamla had Xanax in her system, along with marijuana. Her blood-alcohol level was .238, nearly three times the legal limit of .08 percent.

There were some photos of Tamla taken at the home before she was taken for autopsy. A bone can be seen protruding from her wrist, which indicates that she maybe tried to break her fall. But if she did that, how did she obtain so many injuries to the head?

Tamla’s sister told investigators that the family was going to have a second autopsy done outside of Georgia because there had been “too many inconsistencies” and they felt like “it’s not being done properly with the findings thus far.”

So the developing theory was that Tamla had gone out for a final cigarette at 1.57am and had fallen to her death.  This is based on the door opening at 1.57am and never closing, as well as an unlit cigarette and lighter that were found on the balcony.  It was suggested that maybe Tamla had leaned over the railing to vomit and had fallen off.

There were also allegedly security cameras in the home that should have shown what happened to Tamla.  According to Jeanne and Jose, the batteries had run out in those cameras though and they were not working at the time.  

Jeanne did ‘provide’ proof of the lack of battery to police.

There are many articles that outline inconsistencies given by Jeanne and others at the party.  11alive did a super comprehensive one titled:

‘This case is just beginning’ | Tamla Horsford’s family releases full independent autopsy report  was released in May 2022.

This info about the inconsistencies and the botched investigation is from that article:

Firstly, Jeanne gives a strange account about how Tamla was found.

“It’s the weirdest thing. She was face down but her arms were down like she just face-planted – is the best way I can describe it,” Jeanne said.

The GBI officer asked if Tamla’s arms were down by her side.

“Yeah, by her side, palms up,” the homeowner responds.

Scene photos show her left arm is actually off to the side, it is bent and her palm is facing down with fingers curled under.

This info is about the investigation:

While getting statements, police did ask for photos and videos referenced to the party that night, but they didn’t ask to take any of the devices to download the data, nor did deputies ever subpoena their phones for records. That didn’t happen until the GBI got involved. By that time, records show at least two people had new phones and detectives learned text messages and pictures on some of the other devices were gone.

I have also read in other articles that no fingernail clippings were taken during the autopsy and no sexual assault investigation was ever undertaken.

In a call with Rolling Stone, GBI Public Affairs Director Nelly Miles explained that these steps are not routine, and weren’t taken in this case because there was no indication of foul play. 

Stacy Smith was an attendee at the party and she spoke to police about her doubts about what apparently happened to Tamla.  This info is from Rolling Stone:

While speaking with police roughly two weeks after the death, fellow party attendee Stacy Smith expressed doubt that Horsford could have fallen. “I don’t get it at all,” Stacy told police, according to transcripts released by the FCSO. “I mean I’ve been on that deck like a million times like, I’ve looked, and I’ve tried” — testing a theory that a drunk Horsford had leaned over to vomit, but gone too far — “and I don’t understand.” Officer Sexton sympathised with her confusion, but continued to explore the fall theory. “I mean like you said, that she leaned over, was trying to throw up or thought she was going to throw up, maybe she sat up on the rail and was smoking,” he says. “Or just who knows.” Yet Stacy notes that Horsford wasn’t acting sick; despite her high BAC, this is supported by the other interviews as well as videos and photos taken that night.

On December 17, 2018, Jose was placed on administrative leave.  He had accessed files relating to Tamla’s case.  He was terminated from his position with Forsyth County Pretrial Services on Dec. 20, 2018, based on a “loss of confidence” in the department.

“It was probably just curiosity, to be honest,” Major Joe Perkins said. “He had access to our system and he should not have done what he did. He accessed those reports, which again, upset us. It violated our trust with him and we reported it to his supervisors.”

There was an incident reported filed in 2019 which revealed some more info about the leak.  This info is from the Forsyth News:

According to a recently filed Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office incident report, on Feb. 1, 2019, deputies took a statement from a local woman who alleged that Barrera had accessed her information via his “police terminal” and provided it to five individuals.

The complainant, Michelle Wynne Graves, of Cumming, stated 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.

But in an interview with the FCN, Barrera unequivocally denied these allegations, stating that he had no reason to access the data by illegal means, when what he is alleged to have accessed is publicly available in court and sheriff’s office documents, or online via personal information databases. 

Barrera stated that within a few clicks, anyone’s personal information is available online, accessible to the public, and to believe otherwise is ignoring the facts of the case.

“For her to believe that her information was leaked by me is grossly incorrect and I will believe that until the day I die,” Barrera said. “Anybody can be found.”

In his application to the pre-trial services division of the court system, Barrera listed that he was a probation officer in Hall County from March to November of 2017, and previously worked as an officer with the Cumming field office of the Department of Community Supervision, but was terminated in October 2016. Barrera disputes the fairness of the termination, which he said was due to an inter-office disagreement over a relationship with a co-worker.

Michele is a member of Tamla’s family.

Rumors were swirling online.  As Tamla was the only black person at the party, some suggested that this may have been a racially motivated killing.

Jeanne hired a lawyer and they released a statement : “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 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.” The statement continued: 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 can 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.

The Rolling Stone also mentions the possibility of race being a factor in Tamla’s death.  In their article, they detail the public racism of members of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, as well as possible conflicts of interest with LE and attendees at the party.

A quintessential small Southern town, everyone knows everyone in Cumming — and people seem to take care of their own. Take, for example, Sheriff Ron Freeman and current FCSO deputy coroner Chris Shelton. In 2014, Shelton was forced to resign from a nearby police force after distributing photos of himself posing with racist Mammy dolls. Just two years later, he appeared in Facebook photos for Ron Freeman’s 2016 campaign for Sheriff. After Freeman won, Shelton was appointed Deputy Coroner for Forsyth County. Shelton also works for Operation 21, a business owned by law enforcement and military veteran Brian DeBlois that aims to educate offenders on the law to help reduce recidivism. According to campaign registration information, Brian’s wife Anna also served as the treasurer on Freeman’s 2016 campaign. According to social media posts, the DeBloises are also friends with some of the individuals who were at the party, including Stacy and Tom Smith; photos show the Smiths and DeBloises boating, out to dinner, and celebrating birthdays with what Anna refers to as their “friend family.” Advocates for reopening the case have questioned whether these relationships may have contributed to FCSO’s handling of the investigation.

In February 2019, some of the people who were at the party launched a lawsuit against Michelle Graves, Tamla’s biggest advocate.  This info is direct from the Rolling Stone article:

Later that month, seven of the individuals present the night of the incident, including Meyers and Barrera, sued Graves for defamation, pointing to Facebook posts accusing them of being responsible for Horsford’s death. That lawsuit was dismissed, but they have appealed. (Meyers and Barrera were dropped from the suit.) Legal representation for the remaining five declined an interview for this story, and did not respond to a list of questions about their clients and the larger case.

In February 2019, the Forsyth County Sheriff closed Tamla’s case and ruled that her death was accidental. They had spent over 300 hours of manpower and had conducted 30 interviews with party guests and others who had a connection to the party.

“The State of Georgia has ruled the death accidental and consistent with an accidental fall,” said Major Joe Perkins with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. “None of the injury patterns noted were consistent with foul play.”

“It was a party. They were drinking. She was drinking. Most of the partygoers had gone to bed at that time, and she was on the deck alone.”

Many people demanded that Tamla’s case be reopened.  In June 2020, Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman sent a letter to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on Friday requesting the agency reopen the case of Tamla Horsford, the Forsyth County woman whose death during an adult overnight party 

“Renewed requests for reexamination are best served by an independent law enforcement agency to review previous findings and to search and act on any new evidence which may come to light,” Freeman wrote to GBI Director Vic Reynolds.

Freeman pledged to turn over the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office complete files on Horsford’s death and fully cooperate with a GBI investigation.

“Your agents will have complete access to my office and Deputies,” Freeman writes, “as well as my full cooperation.”

Over 586,000 people signed a petition on Change.org wanting Tamla’s case reopened.

An attorney that was representing Tamla’s family named Ralph E. Fernandez, said at that time there is “a strong possibility” that Tamla’s death was a homicide after his office reviewed the case.

Fernandez said his office found conflicting witness statements, a tampered crime scene, mishandled evidence and “unheard of” absence of autopsy photos, while Horsford’s injuries were “consistent” with being in a physical struggle. 

“It appears Tamla was involved in a struggle,” he wrote in a letter. “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. There was one x-ray, yet the injury noted as the cause of death appears nowhere.”

“The truth never had a chance here,” Fernandez wrote.

Celebrities like TI and 50 Cent also made social media posts that called for the investigation to be reopened. 

The GBI finally agreed to reinvestigate.

Ralph Fernandez started to petition to the GBI for Tamla’s autopsy pics.  In an email to Rolling Stone, GBI said that there were indeed photos (many reports claim that no photos were ever taken)  and claimed the holdup is related to a missing release from Tamla’s next of kin. As of 2020, the autopsy photographs had not been provided to Fernandez; the GBI has said they are happy to do so when provided with the release.

In March 2021, Tamla’s husband Leander spoke to the media.  He said Tamla would have never shown up to a party with people she didn’t know well and gotten so drunk that she would have fallen.

“I’m not saying it wasn’t an accident, but I am saying it was a coverup,” Leander said. “I’m saying they made it look like something else.”

“I can definitely say she was one of the classiest women that I’ve ever met in my life,” he said. “She had a heart of gold. She I’ve never met anybody that you know, like that in my entire life.”

“It is physically impossible for a body to land like that, from falling off of the deck,” said Horsford. “Because with all the marks that she had on her, you don’t get that from falling into the grass. You don’t get linear scratches on your arm from falling into the grass, you don’t get gashes in your shins from falling into the grass. You don’t get contusions on your head.”

The GBI allegedly investigated Tamla’s death for around a year. In July 2021, they closed the case.

“The DA review determined the facts and investigative findings do not support pursuit and prosecution of criminal charges,” Nelly Miles, a spokeswoman for the GBI said in a statement.












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