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Hi, friends. I'm excited to share that we are hard at work on a new season of True or Crime. To hold you over, enjoy this early Season 2 episode, A taste of what's to come. If you want an ad-free listening experience, subscribe to Tenderfoot+ at tenderfootplus. Com or on Apple Podcasts. Please be aware that today's episode references linching and other racial violence. Please take care while listening. When May Crow's body was found in the brush of the woods,orsyth County grieved. It was September of 1912, and May had been just 18 years old. At that time,orsyth, which sits just north of Atlanta, Georgia, was still mainly a rural farming community. According to Brendan Keif and Lindsay base writing for 11 Alive, suspects and May's attack were arrested quickly. It's easy to solve a case, it turns out, if your strategy is to find the closest black folks to the crime. I say it that way because that's how it happened. Remember that this was Jim Crow, Georgia, in 1912, less than 50 years after the end of slavery. As 11 Alive and the Digital Library of Georgia reported, the sheriff quickly rounded up a group of five black suspects.


Author Patrick Phillips writes in his book Blood at the riot that the first of these so-called suspects, a 16-year-old boy named Ernest Knox, had been coerced into a confession after a well-known white community member had mock-clinched him with a rope from a nearby well. Ernest was held in Atlanta. The other four, Oscar Daniel, Jane Daniel, Rob Edwards, and Ed Collins were confined closer to home at the Foresight County jail. It didn't take long before an angry, thrombing mob of white community members started forming outside. First some, then more and more as the crowd swelled to fill the streets. A newspaper article published at that time noted that the men gathered in broad daylight, unmased and unhidden, some bearing rifles and shotguns under their arms, others with coats bulging suspiciously, where a heavy revolver filled a hip pocket. The country roads were dotted with mounted and armed men all hurrying towards the county seat. Even in 1912, it was clear that this was not a group interested in grieving or meaning making as much as vengeance and vigilantism. And still, that night, the sheriff made the decision to go home, to leave the jailhouse with just one officer to guard the prisoners.


I can't say I was surprised when I learned what happened next, how the mob had overcome the lone guard and stormed the jail, how they dragged Rob Edwards from his cell, how they brutalized him, beating him with crowbars, how they'd hoisted him onto a pole and took turn shooting him. It didn't surprise me, but it did horrify me. How could it not? And even after that horror, the mob's bloodlust wasn't satisfied. The murder of Rob Edwards wasn't enough. They had to kill what he represented too. The presence of black people in their communities, black existence, black infiltration. Enough was enough, they decided. And so, according to 11 Alive! In the months that followed, white community members branding themselves as night riders began knocking on the doors of black residents. It was time to go, they'd said. These night riders scrawled notes, demanding that black people leave within 24 hours and posted those notes to trees and doorsteps and mailboxes. Resistance was met with stray bullets fired into homes. And so black folks left, packing up belongings, gathering children, abandoning rightfully owned property and and whole lives. Foresight County should have grieved again. Another loss. This time, the entire black community.


It made me wonder, would they ever return? And what would happen if they did? This is the story of how a woman and a county collided. This is the story of Tamla, Horsford. I'm Silesia Stanton, and you're listening to True a Crime. Now that you know about Forsyth County, I want to tell you about Tamla, Horsford. As I searched through articles and news clips, what showed through most was her boisterous personality. She was magnetic. But still, I wanted to get a sense of how people really saw her. So for that, I went to social media, of course, read posts from family and friends, each its own little digital clue into her life. She liked to dance and be silly, loved ones, lamented. Tamla's Instagram bio, full of hashtags and internet abbreviations, read like it could have been my own Gen X mothers. Life is what you make it, so be your best you. #love #create #dancelikenooneiswatching. Super Mom was the word her sister used to describe her to 11 Alive. As Emily Sugarman would write for The Daily Beast, she was the type of person who volunteered in all of her children's classrooms but snuck miniature bottles of wine into the sidelines of their football games.


Tamla, it seemed to me, was just as fun and warm as she was doting and reliable. In 2018, Tamla was 40 years old and living in Forsyth with her husband and kids. But Tamla had called a lot of places home over the years. Born in the Caribbean, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in October of 1978, she moved to the Bronx when she was 11. Many years later, while living in Florida, she met her husband, Leander, and became a bonus mom to his daughter. The pair had children of their own, four boys, and not long after they'd moved to Georgia for Leander's work, their youngest would make a fifth. But Tamla had no trouble making friends in a new city. Her mother, Elizabeth Pots, would tell Rolling Stone that people gravitated to her. Everywhere she lived, her home became the house that all the neighbors and the neighbors children congregated. This gift for making connections is what led her to John Myers, who Rolling Stone reported had met Tamla through their kid's youth football league. The two became fast friends, and so when John invited her to a birthday party at her home, Tamla was excited to attend.


It would be a girls' night in. John had invited several other moms, and the plan was to eat and drink and catch a football game on TV. It'd be a sleepover. That way, no one needed to worry about getting home. A comfy, cozy, child-free get-together. Tamla prepared for the night excitedly, making dinner and a breakfast cassero for her family to enjoy while she was gone. And then, armed with her footprint onesie pajamas and a bottle of tequila for the birthday girl, Tamla headed out the door. But as it turns out, while the foresight Tamla ventured into that night had changed since the fateful events of 1912, so much had still remained the same. A year before Tamla's birth, seven-year-old Patrick Phillips and his family moved to Forsyth County. Decade later, Patrick told NPR that although Forsyth was just 30 miles north of his old neighborhood, something stuck out to him about his new community. There were no black people in Forsith County. And as I read this, I wondered if that was really so weird. I've spent most of my life in Minnesota, so I'm used to visiting towns where I'm the only black person for miles.


It can feel really stifling, and it's one of the many reasons camping trips don't really do it for me, no matter how beautiful the trees are. But Patrick wasn't growing up in Minnesota. He was in Georgia. And even in 1977, the year he'd moved to Forsight, black folks made up 26.2 % of the state's population, according to US census data. But now on his new school bus, Patrick listened in on the conversations between his new classmates. He noticed that amid the flurry of racist jokes and comments, the kids didn't call Black people or African-American or any other term but one, the N-word, which they used almost exclusively and without hesitation. Patrick was confused, horrified, even scared. He was white and visually blended in with his new classmates, but he'd been raised by parents who were more accepting. In a suburb of Atlanta, where more diversity was the norm, this wasn't what he was used to. We asked his classmates why the area was all white. And as he'd tell NPR, that was when he first learned what had happened in Forsight all those years ago.


In the kids version, it was very mythic and legendary, and it just went that a long, long time ago, there was a white girl who was attacked by black men and all the white people in Versailles banded together and ran out all the black people.


It had been 65 years since black residents were run out and Versailles County was still in many ways defined by this racist history. In fact, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, from 1920 to 1940, there were no people of color in Versailles County. None. By the time of Patrick's move, there was very little evidence black folks had ever been there at all. As 11 Alive! Would report, only one issue of the Foresight County news was preserved for all of 1912, which is alarming because most other years have been effectively recorded on microfilm and made accessible through the Georgia Newspaper Project. Even if someone wanted to research the events of 1912 and what had happened to black folks in the area, it wasn't easy to do. As former black residents were forced to sell or abandon their land, most evidence of their time and foresight faded aside from one physical space. It's a graveyard outside the old Stony Point Baptist Church, a place abandoned like everything else, but it was never torn down or developed over. Through the decades, as black folks couldn't safely visit the gravesites of their loved ones, the grass grew long and wild, and the gravestone started to crack and lean, all silently displaying death dates before 1912.


And even when the county did eventually become more diverse, progress was slow. According to Niall Capo writing for Rolling Stone, by 1990, only 14 black folks called for South County Home. As Patrick would tell NPR, all of this lingering history, it felt potent, almost ever-present.


I always had the feeling that the place itself was haunted, and I thought about these vanished Black people, this whole community of Black people, and had always wondered, as a child, I wondered where did they go? How did this happen? What did they leave behind? Which of these places that I know in the county might have once belonged to them? So it's really a long fascination, but it always seemed mythic and really unknowable to me when I was a kid.


But gradually, more and more black people would move to foresight county. And eventually, Tamla would be one of them. When Tamla, Horsford's body was found strewn across the manicured lawn of John Meyer's backyard, Forsyth County should have grieved. It was November fourth, 2018, the morning after John's birthday sleepover, and John's aunt, Madeline Lombardi, padded to the kitchen to get a head start on her day. According to Rolling Stone, she had been making coffee when she spotted something strange through the kitchen window. Looking closer, the scene came into focus. There was her niece's friend, Tam Horsford, still in her pub print onesie pajamas, face down in the backyard. Fear must have seized Madeline as she said a quick prayer before heading to John's room. John and her boyfriend, Jose Barera, who'd spent the night, were awoken by a knock at the door. Come in, John called before Madeline appeared. According to The Daily Beast, Madeline told the couple, Listen, I just want to talk to Jose. I want him to come downstairs with me. Confused, John asked Madeline what was wrong. That was all it took for the truth to come tumbling out. Your friend from the islands is lying in the backyard and she's not moving.


John and Jose lurched out of bed, heading to see for themselves. As soon as John reached the scene, it was clear that something had gone very, very wrong.


Four-five County, 911. Hi, yes, I need an ambulance. What's the address? 4-4-5-0, Woodley Court. All right, 4-4-50, Woodley Court. What is your name? My name is John Myers, J-E-A-N-N-E. Okay, what's going on? We had people over last night who were drinking. Most of us went to bed. One of them stayed on the balcony. She was drinking. And we just went outside and she's sitting face down in the backyard. It looks like I'm guessing maybe she fell off the balcony, but she's stick. Okay, is she breathing? I don't know if she's face down. Here, hold on.


I know that audio is a little hard to hear, but what Jean explains is that they just found Tam head face down in the grass of the backyard, her whole body completely still. At the end of the call, when Jean says, Hold on, she's actually passing the phone to Jose. It was Tamla, Jose explained that he'd last seen in the kitchen before heading to sleep. He'd echo John's theory to the dispatcher. They'd all been drinking. Perhaps she'd fallen from the balcony? Look, a lot would unfold in the days, weeks, and months that followed. I promise we will discuss all of it. But for right now, I want you to stay here with me. Here on the morning of November fourth, 2018, on the first day in four decades, the son rose in a world without Tamla in it. For a few hours before the two police officers showed up on their doorstep, Tamla's family went about their day, blissfully unaware of how nothing would ever be the same. I think it's these moments that we miss when we mindlessly binge true crime. When we consume tragedy after tragedy, each person is just a character in a story we heard once.


But Tamla was so much more than that. She deserves so much more than that. When Tamla, Horsford's body was found strewn across a manicured lawn on November fourth of 2018, Foresyth County should have grieved. But even if they didn't, wouldn't, couldn't, her family did. And so eventually, those blissful morning hours were cut short. Tamla's husband, Leander, opened his door and found two police officers standing on his front step with the terrible news. It wouldn't take long for the confusion to nestle in alongside the grief because the things the investigators told the family just weren't adding up. The tangle of details left more questions than answers. How could this have happened? Tamla had been alive just the night before. She'd been going to a friend's birthday party. This wasn't the thing that just happened at a sleepover, but as new facts emerged, things only seemed to get cloudier. And the questions, they kept piling up. How did a 14-foot fall led to such severe injuries. Why was so much of the scene completely uninvestigated? Why did the evidence keep disappearing? Where were the autopsy photos? Did guests at the party that night have connections with Foresightto law enforcement and on and on the questions went.


The tension and Forthight simmered with whispers, leaks and lawsuitsuits until it all boiled over. But before I tell you about all of that, you should know that the history we've already over. The tragic events in 1912 were not the last time things in foresight reached a boiling point. It was 1987, and the world was changing fast. As the Cold War thawed and the Berlin Wall crumbled, Madonna ruled the music scene and Michael Jordan soared on the basketball court. And in January of that year, a new show, which had only been on the air for five months, was taking the country by storm. It was called the Oprah Winfrey Show. But one episode in particular that I'd stumbled across my research really pulled me in because Oprah was headed to Forsight County.


We bring you today to Forsyth County, Georgia, just 30 miles north of Atlanta, which in the past few weeks has gained the reputation of being a hotbed of racism.


But let's rewind a sec. You see, it'd been a decade since Patrick Phillips had left the suburbs of Atlanta and moved to Forsyth with his family. A decade from the days he'd spent wondering where all the black folks had gone. And still, Forsight had remained stubbornly stagnant. It wasn't really the absence of black people that I found alarming. That had remained true at this point for over 70 years. So no, it didn't shock me. What did surprise me, though, was just how forthright some for-sight residents were willing to be about their views on race. One woman would tell 11 Alive precisely what she thought about the prospect of integration.


This is why I can't let them stay out of here, period. Because we don't want them up here. It's not that I hate them. I don't hate niggas. I just want them to stay out of this county. It's wrong for them to mix because the Bible says so. The Bible says to stick with your own kind, stick with your own race because just like BlackBirds, BlackBirds are not going to mix with RedBirds or whatever. They're going to stick with their own kind.


If you listen to that and think, This is 1987. How can people get away with so boldly proclaiming their racism? Well, you wouldn't be alone. As it turned out, folks across the country were hoping to shine a spotlight on the all-white Georgia County. It had been 75 years since the fateful events of 1912. Activists from all over the US decided to band together to organize a march. And on a cold yet sunny day in January of '87, nearly 20,000 civil rights marchers descended upon Foresight County's Courthouse Square, the same square where Rob Edwards had once been latched. The St. Petersburg Times said the marchers came from as far away as Boston and San Francisco. 150 busses and countless taxis delivered thousands of marchers from Atlanta. They were a diverse group. Racially, yes, but also in age. Many marchers had brought their children along for the experience. And with folks here from all over the country, including civil rights icons, it should have been a day of hope and solidarity. But according to the Tampa Bay Times, the marchers were met by a crowd of several thousand counter-protesters. The mob of counter-demonstrators had also brought their children.


But the future that they saw for Foresight County was markedly different. One man would raise his son in the air yelling, My son is white and he's going to stay that way. Some waved Confederate flags and others chanted the N-word. 11 Alive news was on location that day, capturing the sights and sounds of the counter-protesters. Go home, nigger! Go home, nigger!


Fourth Side County has been all white for decades, and many residents say they want to keep it that way. We haven't had none up here since the first century, and.


I don't think.


We've done okay without them.


And I don't believe we.


Need them up here now. According to Tampa Bay Times, it would take 2,300 riot-equipped National Guard troops and police officers to protect the marchers from counterdemonstrators. But still, the group remained steadfast, responding to obsencies with peace signs and waves. Once the marchers loaded back onto their busses, the Ku Klux Klan held their own rally, vowing to do what was needed to keep for Forsyth County white. I wondered how the average citizens of Forsyth saw the day's events. What if the counter demonstrations had been surprising to them. 11 Alive! Would report the feelings of the community's spiritual leadership. At the first Christian Church, area ministers gathered in an emergency meeting. Their conclusion, do nothing now, except support their leaders, preach against further violence, and pray. There are Black people in our community. They're all around, and.


There's never been any problem.


Our thinking is the best thing to do is to give those time to heal. Another March.


What good would it do? It would just throw us off in that wound.


It was this clash of groups, the marchers and the counter-protesters that led Oprah to Forsight to tape an episode of her show. She wanted to see for herself how people in Forsight felt about everything that had happened.


You don't believe that people of other races have the right to live here?


They have the right to live wherever they want to, but we have the right to choose if we want a white community also.


There are people in this county, obviously, who are afraid of black people. What is it you are afraid black people are going to do?


I'm afraid of them coming to Versailles County. I lived in Atlanta. I was born in Atlanta. In 1963, the first blacks were bused to West Fulton High School, which was a nice community, a nice neighborhood. Now it's nothing but a rat infested slum area because they.


Don't care. Do you mean they, the entire.


Black race? You have blacks and you have niggers.


What's the difference between a black person and a nigger?


Do you? I've talked to black people. Black people, they don't want to come up here. They don't want to cause any trouble. That's a black person. A nigger wants to come up here and cause trouble all the time. That's the difference.


When all was said and done, even Oprah left Forsyth County before the sun went down. But three decades later, with things, presumably, much safer, Tamla Horsford lived in Forsyth County. But the story of one night in particular is one her family is still hoping to uncover. In the wake of Tamla's death, police interviewed witnesses, party-goers who had been the last known to see her alive that night. Slowly, a picture of what had unfolded the night before began to come together. According to Niall Capo, writing for Rolling Stone, there were a total of 12 people who had been to John's house that night. Nine women and three men. Later, advocates of Tamla would name this group, the four-sith 12. Eight in the group, including Tamla, planned to sleep over at John's. According to Emily Sugarman writing for The Daily Beast, police interviews with party attendees described Tamla arriving late, immediately changing into a pa-pret onesie and lighting up the room with her smile and laugh. According to Rolling Stone, the group split into two, the women upstairs and the men downstairs, both groups watching the LSU versus Alabama football game. Tamla was the only smoker in attendance, so she took frequent solo smoke breaks on the balcony.


At one point, she switched from cigarettes to weed, but John asked her to stop. According to her statement to police, she teased Tamla, calling her the female Bob Marley. Eventually, the men joined the women upstairs for a game of cards against humanity. It was the party I could see myself attending with my friends. According to The Daily Beast, video from that night shows party-goers having great time. They're dancing and celebrating, even though LSU failed to secure the win. The group struggles to focus on their card game and sips their cocktails between bouts of laughter. Tamla opened the bottle of tequila she'd brought as a gift for John, but Tamla was the only one willing to drink it. The smell was strong and bitter, and John would later tell police and made her want to throw up at her mouth. And although Tamla sipped the tequila alone, police found only one-eighth of the bottle remaining the following day. But party-goers would tell police they didn't remember Tamla seeming very drunk. If anything, she seemed remarkably composed, especially considering how much the tequila was missing the next morning. According to Rolling Stone, the party started winding down around 11:30 PM as some party attendees went to their own homes and others turned in for the night as johns.


According to The Daily Beast, John started nudging the remaining guests to go to bed at around 1:00 a. M. As she would tell police, Tamla begged her to stay up, saying she loved hanging around women, that it was a nice break from her house full of boys. But despite Tamla's pleas, John emphasized that she had to get up early the next morning, heading upstairs to bed. Tamla stayed awake with John's friend, Bridget Fuller, who was waiting for a ride from her husband. The two chatted downstairs and Tamla snacked on a bowl of gumbo. The Rolling Stone reports that Bridget would later tell authorities that when she left, Tamla planned to smoke one last cigarette before heading to bed. Eventually, Bridget's husband would arrive and she'd tell authorities that Tamla saw her out the door. Tamla leaned over to kiss Bridget's cheek and said, You're a really good person. Bridget replied, Okay, well, thank you very much. I appreciate that. Now take your ass in the house and finish eating your gumbo. In this moment, well, it was the last known time that Tamla was seen alive. And when reading everyone's recollection from that night, I was struck by just how mundane it all was.


Small moments, drinks shared collectively among friends, jokes over card games, compliments before a friend leaves for the night, all things I've done with my friends at our parties. And while the stories told by the party-goers were sweet, recounting Tamla as someone full of life, enjoying herself, these were moments that probably wouldn't have been that memorable in the grand scheme of things. But eventually, as the sun rose and Tamla's body was discovered, these stories took new meaning. The investigation into Tamla's death was riddled with missteps from the start. According to Rolling Stone, investigators had jumped quickly to the belief that Tamla's death had been an accident. It was an assumption that would ultimately cost them evidence. The crime scene was not preserved, witnesses weren't immediately questioned and minimal autopsy photographs were taken. Looking into the early investigation felt like reviewing some tragic checklist where nothing had been checked off. No rape kit, no fingerprints collected, no fingernail clippings obtained. The tequila Tamla had brought that night, not tested. There was a home security camera pointed at the backyard, but it didn't have batteries. And while that last one wasn't the investigator's fault, it was just another disappointment and a long line of disappointments.


But investigators weren't without their ideas. According to writer Niall Capo, after lead investigator Mike Christian noticed that some landscaping edging seemed to match cuts on Tamla's shins, an early theory arose that Tamla had died from an accidental ground level fall. It was a guess Mike would share with Tamla's family after they had been notified of her passing. And this, perhaps, is where the first seeds of mistrust between investigators and Tamla's family may have taken root. However, the medical examiner didn't feel the evidence was consistent with the ground level fall because Tamla's injuries were severe. She had a dislocated wrist, a broken neck, four different types of hemorrhages in the skull and brain, and even a laceration to her heart muscle. It led investigators to look in another direction. Using data from John's home security system, they identified that a sliding glass door leading to an upper level backyard deck had been opened, closed, and then opened again a final time at 1:57 AM, just minutes after Bridget Fuller had left Tamla to head home. This, paired with Tamla's toxicology report, which found Xanax, marijuana, and three times the legal limit of alcohol in her system, opened a new line of thinking for investigators.


Perhaps Tamla had headed to the balcony for another smoke break and in her intoxication, she'd stumbled over the edge, falling to her death. But this new theory raised questions for Tamla's loved ones. As Niall Capo writes, If Tamla had been that inebriated, why had so many people who'd attended the party confirmed that she hadn't seemed drunk? Pictures and videos from the night also seemed to indicate that Tamla hadn't been acting erratically. And if she'd fallen from the balcony, how come no one in the house heard it? Some of the party-goers had headed to their rooms less than 30 minutes beforehand. While a fall from a balcony would likely pose more danger than the original ground-level theory, family members quickly pointed out that the balcony was only about 15 to 20 feet off the ground. Tamla's injuries, they felt still seemed severe for a fall of that height, but it wasn't just family who was skeptical. According to Rolling Stone, one party-goer, Stacey Smith, would say, I mean, I've been on that deck like a million times. I've looked and I've tried referencing the theory that Tamla had fallen over the edge, and I don't understand.


Family members also felt confused about the Xanax, the medical examiner found in Tamla's system. How had it gotten there? They'd wondered. As it turned out, another attendee did have a Xanax prescription, and while she denied having shared any with Tamla, text would later reveal that she'd given out pills to other friends in the past. It was a lead that was never explored further. Feeling alarmed and suspicious of the quality of the investigation, Bryan Paglia of Foresight County news reported that Tamla's family ordered a secondary private autopsy. Leander Horsford, Tamles husband, would say, In my personal opinion, I think that the investigation has been mishandled. There are a lot of things that were left back that should not have been left back. I want the truth of what's going on because, I mean, the stories I've heard so far, none of them make sense. And if they don't make sense, usually there's a reason. But despite all of this, in February of 2019, after three months of investigation, the Foresight County Sheriff's office decided to close Tamla's case. Case closed. The controversial death of a mother found dead outside an overnight house party, ruled accidental. But not everyone believed that investigators had uncovered the whole story, and some held fast the idea that Tamla had been murdered.


Departed. Before long, people started pointing fingers at those who'd last seen Tamla alive. And over time, members of the four-sifed 12, the group of folks who'd been at the sleepover the night of Tamla's death, would come under intense public scrutiny as theories about what really happened to Tamla made their way across social media. The first person to receive public backlash was John's boyfriend, Jose Barera. Rolling Stone reported that at the time of Tamla's death, he'd worked as a pretrial officer for the Forsyth County Courts, but Jose was soon fired. As it turns out, he'd used his position to illegally access documents related to Tamla's case. According to Forsyth County news, this scandal happened just one month after Tamla's death and fueled theories claiming that the investigation had been mishandled from the start. By February of 2019, Tamla's case was making headlines on larger media outlets like Vibe. Com and The Daily Mail. And on social media, claims of corruption continued to spread. Viral posts made claims without evidence that Tamla was murdered while she attended a sleepover with seven white women or that she was beaten and thrown off a balcony. One such speculative theory pointed to connections between the party-goers, the Forsight County Sheriff, and a foresight county deputy coroner as evidence of bias in the investigation.


According to The Daily Beast, this theory was fueled in part by a Facebook post with more than 70,000 shares. The post claimed that the foresight 12 were covering up Tamla's murder and that they had political ties and lots of money. Truthfully, when I was investigating these alleged political ties, I kept getting lost along the chain of connections. But what's important to remember is that coming Georgia, the city in which Tamla died, it's small, like under 8,000 people small. For better or for worse, connections between different people might be almost inevitable. But those connections fueled public speculation. Ultimately, though, many of these connections proved tenuous. And the Foresight County Sheriff's office asserted that even if there were connections that didn't inherently point to corruption in the investigation. Public Information Officer, Stacey Miller, told Rolling Stone that the Foresight County Sheriff's office investigates each case with the same tenacity without bias, no matter who the victim, witnesses or suspects are. Still, people close to Tamla insisted that members of the foresight 12 knew more than what they've been letting on. According to Foresight County news, one of the people most vocal against the Foresight 12 was Michelle Graves, who'd been a close friend of Tamla's prior to her passing.


And by the end of February 2019, seven of the party-goers hired attorney, Eric Tudum, to help them file a defamation suit against Michelle. The complaint cited 13 of Michelle's Facebook posts, each of which directly named folks who'd been at the party and noted that some of the posts had been seen more than 100,000 times. According to Eric, these posts named his clients is responsible for Tamla's death and accused them of aiding and abetting in her murder. As The Daily Beast would tell it, Eric stressed that Michelle's posts had serious consequences and said that each of his clients had received death threats. Additionally, Forsyth County news reports that according to the lawsuit, Eric's clients, their character, their reputation, and their businesses had all suffered irreparable damage. Michelle would defend herself, saying, I state nothing but factual information, which was verified by the case file. I stand strong behind my statement, these people know what happened, and if they were not directly involved, they have to come forward with the truth. She further challenged the claims of the lawsuit, telling Forsyth County news, this is nothing more than another intimidation tactic on their part. These people caused this negative attention by having a party where someone lost their life.


Ultimately, nothing would come of the lawsuit and the case was dismissed. But it did cause a lot of confusion in the community, and it was yet another strange moment in a long chain of events following Tamla's death. And for some, the lawsuit bolstered the idea that something sinister had happened the night of Tamla's death. But the for Sight 12 weren't the only ones who'd find themselves embroidered in controversy. In 2020, a woman came forward with accusations against lead investigator Mike Christian. It would all culminate in his resignation in October of 2020, after an internal investigation, discovered that Mike, who'd been having extramarital affairs with multiple women, had shared with them confidential details about Tamla's case. According to Rolling Stone, he'd continuously referred to Tamla not by her name, but instead called her Porch Lady, a crass moniker poking fun at the theory behind her death. One woman told the GBI that Mike had sent her pictures of Tamla's body and even shared her unreleased toxicology report. It turns out even Mike had felt wary about the investigation's conclusion. He told the women that although he believed her death to be accidental, he didn't buy that she'd fallen from the balcony.


The women shared he'd been obsessed with the case that it even caused him to have multiple panic attacks. But none of it stopped Mike from making insensitive comments about what had happened. In one Snapchat message he'd sent, he joked about having to notify Leander about Tamala's passing. He said, Hello, sir. I know we've never met, but I'm here to tell you that your wife and the mother of your six children is dead. Oh, yes, I'm happy to report that she was really, really drunk, trip landed face down in the backyard. I know you have fun memories. Enjoy corraling those six boys who are now going apeshit. Comments like these were often sandwiched between completely unrelated, explicit sexual messages. It seemed like to Mike, Tamla was just another topic of conversation. While none of it proved that investigators were covering up some more sinister truth about Tamla's death, it highlighted how those entrusted to get justice for Tamla couldn't even show her the most basic levels of human dignity. And how could Tamla's loved ones trust a system that can't even provide that? But it would be years until the case truly gained national recognition. According to Niall Capo writing for Rolling Stone, the increased attention and support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020 led countless folks to share Tamla's story across social media, including big celebrities like Kim Kardashian, TI, and 50 Cent.


And with this increased attention on the case, local police faced a new wave of speculation about whether investigators were right about what happened to Tamla. In June of 2020, the Horsford family was able to reignite the case after hiring a new attorney, Ralph Fernandez. Ralph told The Daily Beast that it was Tamla's sister-in-law who'd urged him to help the grieving family sort through the confusing information they had received from police. Ralph started his own investigation, filing public record requests and reviewing what he could of the original files. Eventually, he write a letter to Tamla's husband, Leander, concluding that evidence pointed to a strong possibility that Tamla had, in fact, been murdered. In the letter, Ralph claimed that investigators botched the case from the beginning, pointing to conflicts in witness statements, inappropriately handled evidence, and a lack of autopsy photos. He'd conclude the letter with a few sentences of support, writing, Here we are fighting an uphill battle because those who wear the badges and were entrusted with the investigator task failed you. But this is not over. It will never be over. Be safe. Be strong. We will get to the bottom of this. According to Rolling Stone, it was a change.


Org petition that finally pushed things over the edge. With more than 600,000 signatures asking Sheriff Ron Freeman to reopen Tamla's case. Eventually, he'd do just that. And while this new investigation provided hope for those who believed Tamla's death wasn't an accident, they'd soon be met with yet another dead end. According to 11 Alive! In the summer of 2021, the GBI announced that the review of the case did not support pursuit and prosecution of criminal charges Yet again, many of Tamla's supporters felt that there was still more to uncover about what really happened that night of the party. But even in confirmed murder cases, victims loved ones are often left without answers. In 2018, The Washington Post analyzed homicide arrest data in 55 of the nation's largest cities over the past decade. What they found, while perhaps not shocking for folks that listen to this podcast, left me feeling uneasy. Within the data reviewed, police arrested someone in 63% of cases involving white victims. And while that number might already feel low, it's important to note that in the cases involving black victims, police arrested someone only 47% of the time. Finally, in the cases where no arrests were made, nearly three-quarters of those victims were black.


But as attorney Ralph Fernandez would tell Love and Alive, the Horstford family isn't ready to give up just yet.


If it takes me 20 years and I can live that long, I'll be working on this case. Any time there's a homicide until it is resolved, the investigation is subject to being reopened. Fernandez says.


He's invested.


500 pro-Bono hours into.


The case and will put in 10,000 more.


If it.


Means finding out the truth.


There's not going to be any surrender. We're not going to go away. There's going to be justice served in this case.


Public support for Tamla and her family has want some since 2020, but many folks are still rallying around her case. Other Change. Org petitions have continued to circulate and gained support, including one from Foresight's Exposed, which at the time of writing this episode, has nearly 750,000 signatures demanding the FBI handle all aspects of the re-investigation into Tamla's death. Tamla's family still hopes they will receive answers one day, no matter how long it takes to get there. According to Emily Sugarman writing for The Daily Beast, Tamla's husband Leander told police detectives, If you're truthful in my mind, everything will make sense. Everything will fit together. All of the pieces of the puzzle will be there. My mother and grandmother always told me as a little boy, no matter what, the truth will always come to light. And here I think it's important to note that Tamla's story and her loved one's work to bring this truth to light, it all carries a message with implications far beyond the possibility of foul play. Because the fact that this level of corruption, scandal, cover up, the fact that it could even be possible, the fact that the family suspicions are even warranted at all becomes its own take away.


It makes you wonder, what does it say about all of us that we live in communities where this type of thing can happen? And the reality is that Foresighth represents so many counties and Tamala, so many people. It's why her story resonated across the country in 2020. And of course, my hope is that Tamala's family is able to find the answers they're looking for, to do right by this woman whom they loved so dearly. But as I researched for this episode, discovered all the ways that a county's scars refused to fade with time, it was easy to notice how no one in this story has ever been held accountable. Not in 1912, when Rob Edwards was murdered, not in 1987, when white supremacist demonstrators took to the streets, and not in 2018, when the investigation into Tamla's death was so badly mishandled. And yet despite all of this, we continue to appeal over and over again to these same systems, hoping that maybe this time they might actually save us. In many ways, Tamla's story demonstrates the ongoing echo of our country's racial scars and the reality that if we continue to use imperfect tools, we will continue to yield imperfect, messy, and even painful results.


It makes you wonder if maybe it's time for more tools. Before you click away or move to the next episode, I want you to stay here with me for a moment so I can share a few ways to support Tamla and stories like hers. But first, I really wanted to extend a big thank you for listening to the final prequels episode of True Crime, season two. I promise myself and the rest of the team are hard at work finalizing the full season, and we're really excited to share it with you in spring of 2024. These three episodes were like a sneak peek of sorts to hold you over, give you a taste of what's to come, an inside look. And if you want to keep up with True Crime and be the first to hear when that season two drops, you can make sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter. We're on there at True Crime Pod. You can also follow me on Instagram and TikTok at Silesia Stanton. To learn more about Tamla and follow any developments on her case, I recommend following @justicefortam on Instagram. This is an account I looked at heavily when I was researching this episode.


It's run by Tamla's loved ones, and they share occasional updates on her case and just reflections on her life. Tamla's birthday actually passed this fall on October 10th, and the account shared a photo of her with a few words honoring her memory, and I think it's definitely worth checking out. In today's story, we also talked a lot about the events of 1912 and those sorts of things, the details of these historical events are only preserved because historical societies or similar organizations do the hard work of preserving it for us. I really wanted to point you in the direction of two organizations that are working to safeguard the real history of Foresight County. The first one I actually mentioned during today's episode is the Georgia Newspaper Project run by the University of Georgia Library. This project is part of the US newspaper program, and its goal is to locate, catalog, and preserve on microfilm newspapers published in the United States from the 18th century all the way to the present. You can learn more and access those resources at lips. Uga. Edu/gnp. You can also donate to support the library at libs. Uga. Edu/development/support. And then another great organization is the Atlanta History Center.


They're currently working on a project to collect the histories of descendants of Forth site County's expelled black residents. So you can donate and check out their extensive photo collection and read more about the history of Forsife, including the events of 1912 and the 1987, Brotherhood March, which we mentioned in today's episode. And you can do all of that at Atlantahistorycenter. Com. As always, you'll find all of these resources and more, including the full source list for this episode on today's show notes page on our website, trueorcrimepodcast. Com. Thanks for listening to this early season two episode of True or Crime. If you want an ad-free version of this show and other great shows from Tenderfoot TV, you can subscribe to Tenderfoot+ at tenderfootplus. Com or on Apple Podcasts. True or Crime is created, hosted, and written by me, Silesia Stanton, and is a production of Tenderfoot TV. Additional writing and research by Olivia Husingfield. Executive producers are myself, Donald Albright, and Payne-Lindsey. Additional production by Olivia Husingfield and Jamie Albright. Editing by Sidney Evans. Our supervising producer is Tracy Kaplan. Artwork by Station 16. Original music by Jay Ragsdale. Mix by Dayton Cole. Thank you to Aaron Rosenbaum and the team at UTA, Beck Media and Marketing and the Nord Group.


For more podcasts like True A Crime, search Tenderfoot. Com on your favorite podcast app, or visit us at tenderfoot. Com. Thanks for listening.