A 40-year-old mother-of-5 who died at an adult slumber party in Forsyth County, GA, wanted to go home on the night she died.
Tamla Horsford was found dead in the backyard of a home in North Forsyth County on Nov. 4, 2018. The medical examiner and Georgia Bureau of Investigation ruled the cause of death was multiple blunt force trauma from an accidental fall off a residential deck.
The autopsy report and other documents pertaining to Horsford's death were released to the public by the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office on Friday.
The detailed autopsy report, published by Forsythnews.com, describe a fractured cervical vertebra in the neck, bleeding on the brain, and multiple lacerations and abrasions to the face, head, neck, torso and extremities. Her right wrist was dislocated and a 1 inch laceration was observed on her wrist.
The report also described a "3/4 inch linear laceration to the right ventricle" of her heart, meaning a tear in the wall of the right lower heart chamber. That injury alone would have been fatal.
The GBI toxicology report shows Horsford had a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit and she had THC (marijuana) and Xanax in her system.
"In light of the autopsy findings and investigative information, the cause of death is multiple blunt force injuries and the manner of death is [an] accident," Associate Medical Examiner Andrew Koopmeiners wrote in the report.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 20, Major Joe Perkins confirmed Horsford's death was an accident. Perkins said the investigation into Horsford's death was officially closed.
But Horsford's family and friends are skeptical of the autopsy's findings.
The family retained a new lawyer, Ralph Fernandez, who told Channel 2 Action News''s Mike Petchenik even though the case is closed, his work is just beginning.
When asked if he thought the case was closed prematurely, Fernandez said, "I can't pass judgment until I review what they have."
Petchenik filed an open records request to get access to the entire case file, including photos from the death scene.
The case file included previously unseen photos of the backyard where partygoers found Horsford's body and transcriptions of interviews with witnesses, including the home's owner, Jeanne Meyers and her boyfriend Jose Barrera, who was later terminated as a probation officer for accessing classified documents in the death investigation.
Among the documents in the case file are transcripts of interviews conducted by detectives with the 12 partygoers in the home that night.
An investigator asked one of the witnesses if Horsford was drunk.
"So how drunk was Tam when you went to bed at one thirty or whatever?"
The witness, believed to be Barrera, responded, "She didn't seem drunk at all."
Other partygoers recall Horsford saying she wanted to go home, but they insisted she stay - even though she didn't seem drunk.
"She wasn't stumbling. That's why we're so confused," said one of the partygoers.
Barrera claimed he last saw Horsford alive in the kitchen before he went to bed around 1:30 a.m.
When detectives asked Barrera if he threw her over the deck railing, he replied, "No, I did not," and he denied anyone else would have, either, according to Channel 2.
Barrera also told police his girlfriend had "multiple cameras" with views of the back deck. But investigators told Petchenik the home had no external surveillance cameras.
Public interest in Horsford's death intensified after Petchenik reported that Barrera, who worked as a pre-trial court officer, was fired for using his work terminal to access the incident report during an active death investigation that he was a witness to.
"What jumps out in this case is there are some inconsistencies in the initial statements that were made by individuals at the scene," Fernandez told Petchenik.
Fernandez says the family isn't happy with how the Sheriff's Office notified them of the case's conclusion. He says her husband and father got calls from a detective about an hour before a news conference to say the case was closed and instructing them how to get the public case file.
A sheriff's spokesman told Petchenik he insisted the family be notified before Wednesday’s news conference.
— J. Dryer-Mbonisi (@11thHourAuthor) February 18, 2019