A group of Forsyth County residents say they fear for their safety after being publicly accused of murdering Tamla Horsford, the 40-year-old woman whose death at an overnight party sparked national attention, according to court documents filed on Monday, Feb. 25.
Banks Stubbs & McFarland attorney Eric Tatum alleges that starting in November 2018 and ongoing to the present day, lawsuit defendant and Forsyth County resident Michelle Wynne Graves has made numerous statements in social media and across multiple sources that eight individuals were “responsible for the death and/or that they aided and abetted the murder” of Horsford, who died Nov. 4, 2018.
Last week, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office closed their investigation into Horsford’s death, stating that based on evidence and an examination by the Georgia Medical Examiner’s Office, the sheriff’s office has concluded that Horsford fell to her death from the deck of a north Forsyth residence after attending an overnight party there.
“No evidence or injury patterns indicative of an assault or foul play were noted by Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Detectives or in the Forsyth County Coroner’s Office or GBI Medical Examiner’s reports,” sheriff’s office Maj. Joe Perkins said at a press conference held on Feb. 20.
In the lawsuit Meyers et al v. Graves, Tatum states that his clients – Jeanne Meyers, Nichole Lawson, Stacy Smith, Thomas Smith, Bridget Fuller, Marcy Hardin and Jose Barrera – have suffered “irreparable damage” to their character, reputation and business as a result of the statements allegedly made by Graves.
The complaint lists 13 posts allegedly made on Graves’ Facebook account naming each of the plaintiffs and making various statements about Horsford’s death.
“Defendant made these false statements maliciously with the intent to injure Plaintiffs by accusing Plaintiffs of committing murder and/or aiding and abetting the same, behaviors that are so repugnant, debased and immoral that it could exclude Plaintiffs from society,” the complaint states. “Defendant’s intentions have been carried out, as some of the posts have been seen more than 100,000 times.”
The lawsuit also states that due to the widespread attention the incident received online, Graves’s alleged claims have made the plaintiffs and their families fear for their safety. Banks Stubbs & McFarland LLP previously stated that since Horsford’s death, their clients have received death threats on multiple social media platforms.
In a statement to the Forsyth County News, Graves dismissed the charges made against her as frivolous and said that nothing she said was to injure anyone.
“I state nothing but factual information which was verified after reading case file obtained through open records,” she said. “I stand strong behind my statement that these people know what happened, and if they were not directly involved, they have not come forward with the truth.”
She also stated that similar claims against her have previously been dismissed in lower courts.
Court records show that a temporary protective order case made by Jeanne Meyers against Graves was dismissed in November 2018.
“This is nothing more than another intimidation tactic on their part,” Graves said in a message to the FCN. “These people caused this negative attention by having a party where someone lost their life.”
Graves would not comment for the FCN on whether she plans to retain an attorney for this case.
In addition to punitive damages and attorney’s fees, this complaint is asking the court for temporary and permanent injunctions against Graves to prevent further alleged offenses. It states on Dec. 15, 2018, a cease and desist letter was sent to Graves, but nothing has come of that letter.
“Since receiving said letter, Defendant has published additional content that is becoming ever more malicious and egregious by the day,” the complaint states.
This case will be presided over by Superior Court Judge Phillip C. Smith.