Family members of a Black mother of five who was found dead in a Georgia backyard during an adult sleepover two years ago now say they have doubts that the death was in fact accidental.
Tamla Horsford, 40, was found dead in the backyard of a Forsyth County home beneath a 20-foot deck on Nov. 4, 2018. She'd been at the home for a sleepover with a group of women, all of whom were white, according to WXIA-TV. Horsford was found fully-clothed, “face down,” and unresponsive in the backyard the following morning, the outlet reported.
A woman and her boyfriend who were at the scene described her body as “stiff” in the 911 call after Horsford's body was discovered. At the time, authorities declared her death accidental.
Horsford’s family say she was the only Black woman at the house and are now questioning whether her race factored into her death and the subsequent investigation by county authorities.
"The fact that she was a Black woman, sadly, in a sea of people that weren't, might have something to do with why it wasn't more investigated," Horsford sister-in-law Teri Blanco told PEOPLE.
Horsford had been invited to the home by Jeanne Meyers, whose children played youth football with Horsford’s kids, the magazine reported.
"It was a party," Major Joe Perkins of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said in February 2019, according to PEOPLE. "They were drinking."
However, after the death, Meyers’ then-boyfriend Jose Barerra — one of two men present at the house that night — allegedly attempted to access records in the case using his title as a pretrial services officer, according to the Forsyth County News. He was later fired from his job.
The event’s host described Horsford as “the life of the party,” and when asked directly by police, denied she had thrown Horsford over the balcony.
"No, I did not," Meyers told investigators, according to a transcript of the interview, which PEOPLE obtained.
But the family, including the dead woman’s widower, have their doubts.
"I do not believe that the truth has been told about that night," said Horsford’s husband, Leander.
The family’s legal team has also accused local authorities of covering up the investigation into Horsford’s death.
The hashtag #JusticeForTamla has since been used by Black Lives Matter activists.
Following an “exhaustive review” of case records, the family’s attorney, Ralph E. Fernandez, also concluded that “homicide was a strong possibility,” WXIA-TV reported.
After pressure to “re-examine the death of Tamla Horsford,” the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was authorized to look into the case once more, despite the sheriff’s office standing by their original findings, according to a June press release.
“We recognize that transparency is vital for law enforcement agencies and we want to ensure that no stone has been left unturned in the investigation of this tragic death,” Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Now, five children are without their mother.
"She had such a big heart," her daughter Akieshma Horsford told PEOPLE. "She would not allow you to be in a bad mood."
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