NEW BOSTON, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – A jury in Bowie County, Texas, has found Taylor Parker guilty of capital murder after killing Reagan Hancock and kidnapping her unborn baby, Braxlynn Sage Hancock.
Parker previously pleaded not guilty in the October 2020 deaths of 21-year-old Hancock and her unborn daughter, who died after being removed from her mother’s womb.
Authorities say Hancock was strangled, beaten, and repeatedly stabbed, and her unborn child was cut out of her body, all while her 3-year-old daughter was in the house. The baby was later pronounced dead at the hospital after a Texas DPS trooper pulled over Parker, who was 27 at the time, on the morning of the murder and found the unresponsive infant in her lap.
After one hour of deliberation on Monday, the jury of six men and six women returned with a unanimous guilty verdict. Parker showed little reaction as the verdict was read. Sniffles could be heard in the gallery.
Both sides rested on Thursday after jurors heard from Parker’s ex-boyfriend, Wade Griffin, and from the Oklahoma OSI Special Investigator who interviewed Parker in her hospital bed shortly before her arrest.
The jury’s decision comes after three weeks of testimony, followed by closing arguments on Monday, in which the state argued that Parker is a liar and a master manipulator who plotted and intended to kill Hancock and take her baby.
“In the past two weeks, the evidence has never been more clear,” Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richardson told the jury. “She’s a liar, a manipulator and now she’s gonna be held accountable for it.”
Richardson said they proved Parker’s motive and intent, pointing to the timeline they laid out showing Parker’s search for a way to “prove everyone wrong” intensified after her then-boyfriend, Griffin, received an anonymous warning text message on September 16 that she was faking her pregnancy and running out of time as her fake due date approached.
That’s when prosecutors say Parker started searching for information on how to get a birth certificate and register out-of-hospital births. They say that’s also when she started searching maternity stores and clinics, stalking them for potential targets.
“She was in a frenzy to find a baby. She knew the consequence of not having a baby. She was going to lose him forever. But that obsession with Wade was not allowing her to give it up,” Richardson said. “The motive here is to maintain and keep the relationship with Wade at any cost. She felt so strongly about that motive that she murdered Reagan.”
Richards spoke to the jury for about 40 minutes before Parker’s defense attorney Jeff Harrelson took his turn, speaking for a total of eight minutes. He reminded the jury of the definitions he told them at the beginning of the trial would be important and explained how Texas law defines a person when it comes to kidnapping.
“For kidnapping, it’s a human being who has been born and is alive. It’s our position that you can’t kidnap someone unless you’ve been born and alive,” Harrelson argued, telling the jury that means the State had not proven the elements of the case that raise it to the level of capital murder because the baby was not “born,” and suggesting she might not have been alive.
Harrelson asked the jury to acquit Parker and find her guilty of murder, asking them to “take the evidence you heard and filter it and follow this law as the judge has given you” and apply the law “even if you don’t like it.”
First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kelley Crisp returned to rebut Harrelson’s arguments for several minutes before the jury began deliberations.
“She absolutely abducted Braxlynn,” Crisp said. “She wanted to take her home and pretend she was hers.”
“I guess what they’re insinuating is that the child was not born and is not alive. The child was born when Taylor Parker cut her out. That’s when she was born. So what Taylor Parker decided wasn’t her decision to make, but she did. She decided when she was born and [what] she also decided was when Reagan was gonna die,” Crisp said.
Now that Parker has been found guilty, the trial will enter a second phase with the same jury that will include testimony meant to aid the jury in determining whether she should receive a death sentence or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Parker opted not to testify in the guilt or innocence phase of the trial but could take the stand during the penalty phase. That phase of the trial is expected to begin October 12 and it is expected to last two to three weeks.