MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A murder victim’s family protested outside of Government Plaza Tuesday as the murder suspect took a plea deal.
It’s been five years since Gaige Taylor was stabbed to death in a fight involving almost 40 high school students in Theodore. Shortly after the fight, Mobile Police arrested two teens — Devon Watson and Billy Southammavong, for Taylor’s murder. Southammavong was indicted for the murder by a grand jury in 2019.
Tuesday, Southammavong was in court again. The charge of murder was reduced to manslaughter, and the plea was accepted. The plea calls for Billy Southammavong to serve 2½ years followed by five years of probation. The family of Taylor was extremely upset by this decision, saying it isn’t nearly enough time for a life that was taken.
Tiffany Head, Gaige’s mother, said, “I’m frustrated with the DA office, I’m frustrated with the system… It’s scary for our community. We want our children to be safe — how will they ever be safe if we allow murderers to walk the streets?”
Taylor’s family and friends stood for hours outside of Government Plaza protesting the deal. Natalie Head shared these photos with WKRG News 5.
Mobile County DA Ashley Rich says she understands their frustrations. But she also says this plea deal goes with the facts of the case — that Gaige also went there that fatal 2017 night, to fight.
“It’s emotional. I understand the pain that they’re going through, and it is incredibly difficult to have a loved one that is senselessly killed and their lives are forever changed in an instant,” Rich said. “But we have to look at all of the facts and circumstances and do what we feel is best in each individual case.”
Head was given the chance to take the stand before Southammavong took the deal. With her voice cracking and hands shaking, she expressed her sorrow for the loss of her son and how the last five years have been agonizing for their family. She also spoke directly to Southammavong, saying she forgives him for his actions, but she still wants justice for her son.
“I hope he does the same and seeks forgiveness from God,” Head said.
Ultimately, Southammavong pleaded guilty and took the deal and was escorted out in handcuffs. Head and the family, ready to continue the fight, argue this is about justice beyond this case and sets an unfair precedent for other victims’ families.
“You shouldn’t be further victimized by the DA — they should be here to prosecute murderers,” Head said. “Our community won’t be safe until they do their job, and I will continue fighting for others who are dealing with the same issues we are.”
The other person accused in Gaige Taylor’s death, Devon Watson, is expected in court next month. The family tells WKRG News 5 they plan on attending and protesting then as well.