NEW BOSTON, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – The trial of the Simms, Texas woman accused of killing a New Boston mother and cutting her unborn baby from her womb will resume Monday in Bowie County, as the judge has ordered it to take place over four-day weeks with Fridays off.
Taylor Parker, now 29, is charged with kidnapping and capital murder of 21-year-old Reagan Simmons Hancock and her unborn baby, Braxlynn. Parker could face the death penalty if convicted. She has pleaded not guilty.
With well over 300 potential witnesses that could be called to the stand for the State alone and reams of evidence and exhibits, the trial is expected to last through the end of September. Judge John Tidwell has said he wants to give each side in the case time to prepare each week. Some of the jurors are also older, so the judge has taken steps to ensure a comfortable pace.
So far, 17 witnesses have taken the stand, including Parker’s ex-husbands and her former mother-in-law, formerly close friends and co-workers, and investigators who gathered and analyzed digital forensic evidence that shows Parker’s online activities.
On Thursday, jurors heard from Texas DPS Lt. Andrew Venable, who followed leads and evidence uncovered by search warrants on Parker’s devices and financial records. Venable testified that the seemingly incredible fabrications detailed in previous testimony that include a bogus $20 million real estate deal and a supposed murder-for-hire plot arranged by Parker’s mother do not even begin to scratch the surface.
“I would say it was continuous from the start of Taylor Parker and Wade Griffin’s relationship through the end,” said Venable, who says his team spent weeks untangling Parker’s web of lies.
“As one story, one lie, one scheme was presented, additional lies had to be created to support that as each started to unravel to corroborate each lie.”
Venable said the layers of fraud they found indicate Parker is no amateur and that anyone capable of handling “all these spinning plates at one time” is not someone who is having any difficulty with mental function.
“Layers of fraud”
Prosecutors used Venable’s testimony to walk the jury through those layers, lining up Parker’s online activities with key events in the timeline leading up to the murders. They showed apps and services investigators say Parker purchased to spoof phone numbers that allowed her to pose as other people, real and fabricated, to prop up her claims and manipulate the real people she was deceiving.
These faked people included an entire hit squad, with names like Marquavan, “The Reaper,” Lex, and Douis Louix. Some of them came complete with backstories and motivations, and Parker’s exchanges with them created for Wade Griffin’s benefit were extensive, detailed, and at times, particularly melodramatic.
Posing as “Cobern,” Parker texted herself to fabricate a conversation with her made-up law enforcement contact who was giving her updates on the hit Parker was telling Griffin her mother had ordered on her.
Coburn told her that “Jace,” the fake middleman in the murder-for-hire plot, had been booked on $800,000 bond and that police had pinpointed the location of her mother, Shona, “using phone records, small transactions here and there.”
“I am happy to inform you that Shona will be picked up sometime today, we’re getting ready to work with local police to arrest him on a warrant,” “Cobern” texted Parker, who went on to warn her that she was being followed.
The fake contact told Parker that banking information had linked her mother to the hit money and that police were monitoring her home. He asked that Griffin stay with her that night, because “today is hit day. This is severe, this is for your own safety, your daughter and Wade.”
After warning Parker that her social media accounts were being monitored and not to tag locations, Parker thanked “Cobern” and responded with what Veneble says was an example of how Parker used these faked conversations to manipulate Griffin and provide explanations for everything.
“Goodnight you be safe. But one question: How did you get stuff set up without being seen? Wade’s neighbors are nosey af!”
“Cobern” told her they set up while it was still dark outside, but he didn’t stop there.
“Neighbor across street is tricky, up at 4am in his recliner,” “Cobern” told Parker, explaining they used night vision cameras to watch neighbors in their homes to ensure no one saw the setup process. “It’s very tedious work. your neighborhood was extremely difficult with the overall setup. It’s a long process but it saves lives. In the end it’s worth the pain in the ass work.”
Later, “Cobern” sent Parker a photo of her front door appearing to be damaged from a break-in, assured her they got the perpetrators on surveillance camera and told her they were working to identify them. Parker responded with surprise.
“WTF they came to my home?? Wade wants to know when the hit was ordered on us all?”
“Sweetie this was why I said to listen to me. We had everyone watching y’all both last night these guys slipped right past us to the house now we have them on camera.”
He went on to tell her the hit was ordered when she refused to talk to her mother about the money Parker had been claiming was given to her by her grandparents, which she was telling Griffin her mother had pulled from her account and used to finance the hit.
The next text from “Cobern” to Parker said, “We have picked up your mom and it was ugly, I’m sorry.”
“Is she okay? anything on the guy yet?”
“She has some facial lacerations. She’s in custody and can now get the help she may need. Are you with wade?”
“Glad she’s in custody where she belongs,” Parker responded. “I want to see her Cobern. I told you that I have my last words to say to her before she rots in jail.”
In reality, Venable said on the stand, Parker had just been fired from her job and needed a new place to live and a reason to give to Griffin why she could not access the family money. He said Parker created a crisis to bring Griffin deeper into the relationship. And it worked. She ended up moving in with him.
Parker allegedly masterminded this alternate universe in order to make Wade Griffin believe she was a millionaire heiress who just could not get hold of her money to pay for a $5M pecan farm because her mother was plotting against her and there were issues with the banks and wire transfers. The prosecution says the schemes often did “double and triple duty,” uniting Parker and Griffin in their battle against Shona well before the faked pregnancy began.
Evidence shown to the jury includes a series of emails from the person prosecutors are calling “Fake Shona” to identify communications fabricated by Taylor in her mother’s name. The emails are filled with threats and foul language, warning Griffin to “stop trying to get the money” and claiming to be “behind all of it.”
Prosecutors say “Fake Shona” made sure Griffin knew no one would believe Parker, telling him, “I did all this to fall on Taylor” and claiming all of the evidence would point to her. The barrage of messages included threats to Taylor’s life, and “Fake Shona” claimed to have video surveillance and access to all of their devices.
When some of those elaborate stories began to fall apart, prosecutors say she pretended to be pregnant in increasingly desperate hopes of keeping Griffin from leaving her.
Venable testified about digital forensic evidence showing faked texts and emails sent to Griffin to make him believe funds totaling $7.7 million had been deposited into his credit union account for the purchase of Pecan Point.
“So Wade will think there’s money in his account, but there will be some problem that Taylor Parker will create another fake person to explain, and the cycle continues,” Venable explained on the stand.
Sure enough, Venable said, the bank had problems transferring the money because they did not want to lose the family fortune funds. That’s when Venable says Parker brought in the fake manager of the supposedly incompetent fake director of accounts, who told Griffin they bought a new software system to manage direct deposits and that their systems had been wiped clean.
In the course of these communications, the fake director of accounts suggested Parker and Griffin get a joint bank account.
Google search data from Parker’s device showed she was searching how to fake USPS tracking numbers and financial documents around this time and ordering business checks online printed with the name and address of the oil and gas company Parker was telling him paid her royalties. She paid extra to expedite the delivery of those checks. The next day, she texted a photo to him of one made out to her and Griffin in the amount of $8.7 million.
Two days later, Parker announced her fake pregnancy.
“This is something that happens in the movies”
Testimony wrapped up Thursday with the administrator of the Northeast Texas Women’s Health clinic in Mount Pleasant, where Parker was a patient and worked at one time. Melissa Mason testified that Parker had her last check-in at the clinic in 2016. She was a patient there when she had her partial hysterectomy in 2015. So when she posted a sonogram from the clinic on social media claiming it was her current pregnancy, it raised alarms.
Mason says she reached out to Parker via text in March 2020 about the Instagram post after someone sent it to her.
“I know for a fact you are not seeing us for this ‘pregnancy,'” Mason said in texts shown to the jury. “idk what’s going on but we don’t feel comfortable with our clinic name being put on this ‘ultrasound.'”
“We will take it off we have had an major issue with my mom starting issues, we don’t want her causing issues with our current doctor’s office, so we haven’t put our main stuff out. I have an appointment with y’all Thursday to finalize to use y’all. We will delete it until we have ours from y’all,” Parker responded, adding, “I’d like for my stuff to be kept HIPAA from my family because they have been snooping when they have been removed.”
Mason assured Parker that they don’t talk to anyone about patients.
“We are trying to see who keeps causing issues and contacting people is why we posted that info, to see who keeps contacting our doctors offices,” Taylor texted.
On the stand, Mason confirmed at least two people had called the clinic trying to get information about Parker’s pregnancy. One was an acquaintance, Stephanie Ott, who asked about Parker’s ultrasound. Ott was trying to find out if Parker was really pregnant, but since they cannot violate patient privacy laws, Mason says she told Ott to “go with her gut.”
The other person who called the clinic was Wade Griffin.
While the clinic could not violate patient privacy laws by confirming publicly that Parker was faking her pregnancy, Mason said the clinic did warn the hospital and specifically identified Parker. She testified that she believes that did not violate HIPAA laws because it was communication between one provider and another.
Mason also testified that the clinic terminated Parker as a patient the following month due to repeated no-shows.
Before Mason left the stand, defense co-counsel Mac Cobb asked whether she or anyone else in the clinic was ever concerned about how the false pregnancy story was going to end.
“Never in our wildest dreams would we have thought it would end this way,” Mason said. “This is something that happens in the movies and not in Mount Pleasant.”
Testimony resumes Monday. Hancock’s mother, Jessica Brookes, is among those expected to testify this week. Brookes found her daughter’s body lying face down on the floor of the living room of her blood-spattered Austin Street home on the morning of October 9, 2020, just a few hours after authorities believe she was stabbed, beaten, and strangled to death.
Parker’s parents and Wade Griffin are also expected to testify during the trial.