NEW BOSTON, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – Connie Griffin grew tearful on the stand Tuesday as she testified in the Taylor Parker trial about how she doesn’t know what more she could have done about her suspicions that Parker was faking her pregnancy.
Parker, 29, is charged with kidnapping and capital murder of the 21-year-old Reagan Simmons Hancock and her unborn baby, Braxlynn. Prosecutors say she stabbed Hancock more than 100 times, bashed her in the head with a hammer, strangled her, and cut the baby from her womb. The motive: to take the baby as her own in a desperate attempt to prove her own pregnancy was not faked and to keep Wade Griffin from leaving her.
Griffin says she tried to talk to her son Wade multiple times about her concerns that Taylor was not being honest about being pregnant or about her claims that she had millions hung up in the bank over technical issues orchestrated by her mother. And while she all but accused Taylor herself a few times, Connie Griffin admitted on the stand that she did not confront her directly.
The retired Red River Army Depot engineering department supervisor says she even considered hiring a private investigator to find proof of Taylor‘s misdeeds in hopes that presenting it to him would bring him around.
She says her son didn’t talk to her for nearly four months after she confronted Wade with a tip from Taylor’s ex-husband about her shady financial dealings.
“I couldn’t hardly stand it,” Connie said. “I questioned whether I should have even said anything.”
She ultimately decided it to “let it play out“ and tolerate Taylor as best she could while dropping hints along the way. She even reluctantly agreed to go to the gender reveal party, but only because she had just gone to her son Tanner’s the week before, and she did not want to hurt Wade.
“I pretty well knew she wasn’t pregnant, but I went,” Connie says. “It would have killed him had I not shown up knowing that I had been at his brother’s the week before. “
She says she avoided Taylor, but she did see at least two other people there that she knew also knew Taylor wasn’t pregnant.
It wasn’t long after the gender reveal party that Wade came to Connie to tell her that he now had an explanation for all the issues with Taylor’s access to her millions. He had received messages made out to look like they were coming from Taylor‘s mother, and she was claiming to be responsible for all of it.
“It was a big discussion. All of the sudden, we know who’s been behind everything and why the money’s not gonna come,” Griffin testified. “He was excited to tell me that ‘We finally found out what’s been going on all this time!’”
She read through the messages on Wade’s phone. Taylor was standing there when she read the expletive-filled messages on Wade’s phone.
“I wanted her to hear this,” Connie recalled. “I said, ‘I don’t know who wrote these whoever wrote this is pure evil!’ And I looked directly at her when I said that.”
Connie says Wade believed there were cameras in the trees behind his cabin because she indicated in the messages that knew he and Taylor had been out on the back patio that morning, drinking coffee.
“Do you not realize she is behind these text messages?” Connie recalls asking her son with some incredulity, telling him nobody knows where he is and what he is doing at all times better than Taylor. She also recalls asking him if he loved her. He told her that her he cared about her, but he was not in love with her.
“I said, ‘Well then, get her gone!”
But Wade was worried Taylor would have no place to go. Connie says she told him it was not his problem and he just needed to get away from her, the texts and “all of this.”
Connie says she tried one more time, four days before the murder. That’s when the couple came to her house to take showers after a fire under Wade‘s house knocked out the power and plumbing. It was also the morning Taylor was telling Wade she was set to be induced. But when they arrived, they told Connie it would not be happening because a bomb threat had been called in to the hospital.
“And I just looked at her and said, “Yeah, you called it in.’ It was the first thought on my mind.”
While Wade was in the shower, Connie says she showed Taylor a Facebook post from her mother, who had taken Taylor’s children on a trip to Colorado. Taylor had always said she didn’t have a relationship with her mother.
“‘I see your mom has the kids and they’re having a good time up in Colorado,’” Griffin says she pointedly told Taylor, “She didn’t have a lot to say. She got real quiet.”
While Taylor was in the shower, Connie says she “let Wade have it.” Taylor was well past her due date and he had taken time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). She worried to him that he would lose his job if he came back after six weeks and there was no baby. She told him to go back to work and assured him that if a baby ever came, he would get a call.
“I was very concerned about the job. I said, ‘Wade, she is not pregnant. She had a hysterectomy when Trey was born. He’s 5. She’s not pregnant, Wade.’”
Wade did not take it well, according to Connie. When Taylor got out of the shower, he told her they were going and stormed out of the house.
Four days later, she was up early when she saw Wade leave in his new truck and headed over to see if she could find his original birth certificate, which she knew he had been keeping in the glove box of his other truck. She says she was worried he would lose it. While she was there, a neighbor asked her to help her feed the dogs while Wade was out of town. Connie testified that she saw a baby bouncer in the middle of the living room when they went inside, a crib set up in the bedroom, piled with baby supplies and clothing, including a pink bow.
Within hours, she heard about Ragen Hancock‘s murder as the news began to spread.
“Why didn’t you do something?” asked First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp. “Was there any idea that it was going to result in something like this?”
“No,” Connie responded. “I knew it had to end some way and I knew there was no baby coming, but I honestly thought that she would fake a miscarriage.”
“In spite of repeated attempts to call her out, it didn’t do any good,” Crisp said.
“No, I think it made it worse,” Connie said. “You’ll always have that doubt of, ‘Is there something that I could have done?’”
“You know you couldn’t have done anything, right?”
“I know,” Connie responded tearfully. “but you always have doubts of, ‘Is there something that I could have done?’ I thought it would end with a miscarriage because I knew she wasn’t pregnant.”
Prosecutors at one point took issue with a line of questioning from the defense that seemed to suggest Wade Griffin might have been involved or at least knew about it. Crisp also complained to the judge that Parker’s defense attorney Jeff Harrelson had repeatedly asked Griffin why she never called the police or do more.
Crisp said Taylor Parker is the one on trial here, not Wade or any of the witnesses.
Crisp also strenuously objected to Harrelson’s attempt to introduce a two-page letter Taylor wrote to Wade’s father, Jimmy, after her arrest. Harrelson brought it up while cross-examining Griffin and asked to enter it into evidence. Crisp objected, pointing out the fact that evidence is not admissible during cross-examination of state’s witness.
“You cannot do that. Now he’s wagging this letter in front of the jury and trying to make a proffer,” Crisp said,” accusing Harrelson of trying to force the admission of the letter into evidence.
While the contents of the letter were not revealed in court, Crisp told the judge the defense seemed to be making a mitigation case, which is supposed to be argued during the punishment phase of the trial, rather than whether Parker is guilty or innocent.
Mitigation is done during the penalty phase of the trial when the jury hears testimony about the defendant who has been convicted, the victims, and their families before they decide on the appropriate sentence under the law. As part of the jury’s charge in a death penalty case, they have to consider specific questions about whether the defendant is a future threat, among other things.
“I think what’s hanging out there is that they’re trying to blame Wade,” Crisp told the judge. “And if they’re not offering for an alternate perpetrator, then save it for the punishment phase.”
Harrelson responded that the defense is not obligated to reveal their defense strategy and denied they were trying to blame anyone for anything.
Jurors also heard Tuesday from the Mount Pleasant Police Department investigator who connected Parker to the bomb threat and a forensic fire investigator who determined the fire under Wade‘s house had been intentionally set.
Also taking a stand were employees of an OB/GYN clinic in Paris Texas, more than an hour away from where Parker lived in Simms. The clinic employees testified about the day on Sept. 30, 2020, when Parker came in for a new patient appointment. The receptionist testified that she saw Taylor crying in the lobby and asked her if she was okay as she turned in her forms. Parker told her that her mother was not able to make the appointment and that she wanted to reschedule. When the receptionist asked her what was upsetting her, Parker told her that her husband was in the military and had been killed.
That testimony had heads turning in the gallery of the courtroom, as onlookers looked around as if to confirm others had heard the same thing.
An RN who works at the clinic testified that Parker made enough of a scene that the doctor came out to try to help console her, offering a sonogram before she came back for her rescheduled appointment. The RN testified that in her six years at the clinic, she had never seen anyone turn down a sonogram. Most of the time, mothers-to-be want more than they need.
Instead, Parker rescheduled her appointment for the next day and left. But later that day, the receptionist said, she and an RN saw Parker sitting on a bench near the patient entrance by the parking lot at the rear of the clinic as they were coming back from their lunch break.
Previous testimony from investigators detailed how Parker Google search and location data placed her at the clinic that day, searching license plate numbers of the pregnant women coming in and out.
In other testimony on the sixth day of the trial, Cooper Tire human resources manager Blake Aubrey testified that everyone involved thought Parker was a great hire when she came on board in March of 2020 as a payroll clerk. Aubrey said she nailed the interview. She mentioned having some background in the medical field and a little HR. They thought they might even be able to cross-train her in other departments.
“We thought we’d knocked it out of the park when we hired her.”
But Aubrey says they later realized she had lied about her credentials and her job performance “wasn’t really matching what we were told in the interview process.” Some of the performance issues were related to her conducting personal business while on the clock, Aubrey said. She was spending a lot of time on her cell phone in the break room, doing things that were not related to work. They had a talk with her in April, right before COVID shut down the plant for nearly a month.
Aubrey confirmed that Parker was never an engineering project manager and never did any cross-training. She was certainly never asked to generate any project reports or budgeting, as she told Wade she did in a text recovered from her device. She also never told anyone at Cooper tire she was pregnant, even though she was hired around the time she announced her pregnancy to everyone else. But she did have several medical issues come up during her employment there.
Aubrey says she was on a final warning over her performance issues, but she ended up quitting via text.