Layla Rebecca Watson
Birth: September 15, 2003
Death: April 6, 2021
Miss Layla Rebecca Watson, age 17 of Andalusia, passed away on Tuesday April 6th, 2021. Funeral services for Miss Layla will be held at 2PM Saturday April 10th, 2021 with a 30 minute visitation prior to services at Cedar Grove Church of Christ with Minister Larry Turman officiating. Interment will follow in Cedar Grove Cemetery. Visitation will begin at 5:30PM Friday April 9th at Foreman Funeral Home.
She is survived by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jonathon Watson of Andalusia; sisters, Lana and Lyla Watson of Andalusia; maternal grandparents, Morris and Rita Mullen of Andalusia; paternal grandmother, Deborah Watson of Andalusia; maternal great-grandparents Jimmy and Madge Cobb of Andalusia; paternal great-grandmother Joyce Watson; three uncles and one aunt, Josh (Kim) Mullen, Brant Mullen, Sam Watson, and Brittany Watson, all of Andalusia.
Pallbearers will be Jonathon Watson, Sam Watson, Bailey Faulkner, Josh Mullen, Brant Mullen, and Jacob Howard.
Those wishing to sign the online guest registry may do so online at www.foremanfuneralhome.com.
Andalusia man found guilty for 2021 killing of teen
Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 10:01 AM EST
By Ty Storey
Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 5:12 PM EDT
ANDALUSIA, Ala. (WTVY) – An Andalusia man has been found guilty by a Covington County jury in connection with the 2021 death of a 17-year-old girl.
Following a three-day trial, the jury deliberated for less than an hour when they found 19-year-old Damien Lashawn Beasley guilty of Manslaughter, Abuse of a Corpse and Tampering with Physical Evidence.
Evidence presented during the trial painted a picture of what happened on the morning of April 6, 2021. According to court records, a then 17-year-old Beasley, the incident’s victim Layla Watson, and two others, Brayden Awalt and Robert Jones, were hanging out together at Awalt’s grandmother’s home. While hanging out in the backyard, Awalt retrieved a shotgun and gave it to Beasley, with differing reports from Awalt and Jones saying Beasley was either being casual with the gun or potentially erratic while standing near Layla.
Both Jones and Awalt say Layla’s last words to or referring to Beasley were either “He’s alright. It won’t shoot,” or “You won’t shoot.” In either case, neither Awalt or Jones testified that Beasley pointed the gun at Layla, but they did confirm they heard the shotgun being shot, and looked up to see Layla on the ground and Beasley still holding the gun. Beasley and Awalt then dug a hole beneath the privacy fence and drug Layla’s body to the woods adjacent to the home’s backyard, and hid her beneath a fallen tree, discarding the shotgun in the woods as well and fleeing the scene.
Jones did not assist in hiding the body or shotgun, and instead left the scene immediately and went to Andalusia Police claiming that he “witnessed a murder,” with Jones later changing his tone during the trial to claim the incident was an accident, but admitting that wasn’t what he told law enforcement.
Following a three-day trial, the jury deliberated for less than an hour when they found 19-year-old Damien Lashawn Beasley (pictured) guilty of Manslaughter, Abuse of a Corpse and Tampering with Physical Evidence.
Andalusia Captain Paul Dean testified in court that he found Layla’s body and the shotgun in the woods, the gun being a Stephens 620 12-gauge military shotgun. Dean, a firearms instructor and recognized during the trial as a firearms expert, said he inspected the weapon and found all safety mechanisms and internal parts of the weapon were in working order, despite the gun being old and dirty with a broken stock and ejector. Dean also tested the firearm and confirmed the firearm to be in safe, working order.
Originally, Beasley was tried for the crime of Murder, with the only witnesses for the case being Jones and Awalt. Awalt, like Jones in trial, told jurors that he believed the shooting to be “an accident,” but also admitted to Beasley holding the gun and “waving it around.” Beasley, for his defense, did not testify on his own behalf.
“It was our position that squeezing the trigger constituted Murder,” claimed District Attorney Walt Merrell. “There was no evidence of a misfire. The only logical conclusion to us was that he squeezed the trigger, and, therefore, we proceeded with the prosecution of Murder.”
“Beasley’s lawyer (Riley Powell) tried to convince the jury that Beasley was ‘a 17-year-old who had never held a shotgun in his life’ and that Layla’s death was ‘a tragic accident,” noted Grace Jeter, the primary prosecutor for the State. “The jury heard the evidence and found that it showed he was acting recklessly as opposed to intentionally. We have to respect their decision.”
Layla’s mother, Marcie Watson, commented on the decision and said she remains very appreciative of the community support and the support her family received from the DA’s Office and Andalusia Police.
“From Gene and Brett (Holmes) always being there to listen to me, to Grace fighting hard for Layla, to Amber (Gladwell) and Erin (Wilson) always making sure we were comfortable and not stressed any more than what we already were…everyone fought so hard for Layla and never stopped,” said Watson. “From the first time I sat in Walt’s office, he told me Layla would get justice.
“It might not be in the time I wanted it, but it would happen. I was told from day one by a good friend to keep fighting the good fight. And that’s what I’ve done. I will never get Layla back, but I know she is smiling down on us now.”
Beasley’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 25. Merrell has said the prosecution will ask Judge Lex Short to sentence Beasley “to the maximum sentences for each conviction and to run those sentences consecutively,” which would be 31 years of prison time.
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