The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has concluded their re-investigation into the death of a 40-year-old married mother of five and has decided not to pursue any criminal charges.
Tamla Horsford died at an adult sleepover she attended in 2018 after what was initially ruled an accident, with the cause being her falling over a second-story balcony at a home in suburban Atlanta. Her case was closed in 2019 but re-opened in 2020 due to public outcry sparked from the racial unrest following George Floyd’s murder.
Horsford’s family hoped that the deeper dive would shed light on what they felt were inconsistencies with the medical examiner’s ruling, but the GBI’s findings were the opposite of what they wanted to hear.
“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.
“There was no evidence that anyone else was responsible for Mrs. Horsford’s death or that foul play was in any way involved,” Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn said in a statement. “The facts overwhelmingly indicated that she died as the result of a tragic accident. Therefore, that concludes this office’s involvement in the matter.”
On Nov. 4, 2018, Horsford was found dead in the backyard of the residence of Jeanne Meyers, whose get-together Horsford attended the night before. According to a police report from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, Horsford was found “lying face down” following an “overnight party” where attendees were “drinking heavily.” According to Meyers, the last time she saw Horsford was when she stepped out to the balcony for a cigarette around 2 am.
A medical examiner’s report concluded that Horsford’s death was the result of “multiple blunt force injuries” to her body, and noted that “acute ethanol intoxication” (alcohol poisoning) was a contributing factor. An autopsy determined Horsford’s blood-alcohol level was .23, almost three times the driving limit in Georgia, and found trace amounts of marijuana and Xanax in her system.
Horsford’s family, including her sister Summer St. Jour Jones and father Kurtland St. Jour, and their representative attorney Ralph Fernandez, have disputed the medical examiner’s findings since the initial investigation. “Never, ever, ever have I seen my sister sloppy drunk and incoherent,” Jones said last September. “So, I doubt that she would pick a sleepover with people she was just getting to know to start behaving that way.”
“The placement of the body, the multitude of injuries, what I would consider to be defensive injuries. The inexplicable post-mortem bleeding,” Fernandez added as he bolstered St. Jour’s remarks. “There were numerous inconsistencies in a series of statements,” he added. “The disposal of evidence, the relationships between the parties.”
The investigation was reopened at the request of Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman after more than 700,000 people signed a petition on Change.org.
Freeman is being accused of a cover-up according to excerpts from the petition’s website. They’re calling for his firing in order to get a fair investigation.
“There are several issues with his investigation. First, the lead supervising investigator, Andy Kalin, was friends with one of the persons of interest, Jose Barrera. Andy Kalin, a personal friend of the sheriff, was hired after Ron was elected sheriff. Andy had no prior police experience but was hired in at a high position, bypassing the Forsyth County new hire protocol. Which includes a polygraph, background testing, etc.
Ron Freeman’s 2016 Campaign Manager, Anna Debolis is friends with most of the person’s of interest. Not to mention that Jose Barrera has been a long time employee that works directly with the Forsyth County sheriff’s office.”
Following the second investigation, Freeman thanked the GBI for reaching the same conclusions his office reached. “I appreciate the professionalism of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations in completing a thorough investigation of the tragic death of Mrs. Horsford,” he said in a statement. “Their findings parallel those of the initial Sheriff’s Office findings of an accidental death. None of this can remedy the loss of a mother and loved one. Our sympathies remain with those who suffered this tragedy.”