NEW BOSTON, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) — Reagan Hancock‘s mother took the stand Thursday morning in the trial of a woman accused of killing her daughter and cutting her unborn baby from her womb.
Over 30 minutes of heartwrenching testimony, Jessica Brookes spoke tenderly of her daughter as she talked about how close they were and how they talked every day.
She said she hired Taylor Parker to do Reagan‘s engagement photos and later, her wedding photos. She said she was not aware of Taylor and Reagan being in much contact again until Reagan announced her pregnancy and learned it was a girl. There was some talk about Taylor doing her pregnancy photos, but Brookes says Taylor told her she had some medical issues and the photo shoot never happened.
Brookes testified about how she was a little surprised to hear that Taylor and Reagan were getting together on October 7 since she didn’t know them to hang out that much.
Jessica Brookes went on to describe the morning she found her daughter’s body. She was at work when her son-in-law Homer called her, concerned that he could not reach her. She told him she would head to the house to check on her.
On the way, Brookes says she stopped at her granddaughter Kynlee’s daycare, thinking she would know quickly something was really wrong if she wasn’t there. She explained to the daycare worker why she was checking on Kynlee. When the daycare worker came back, Brookes broke down on the stand as she recalled the moment the daycare worker turned around and told her “Kynlee’s not here.”
Brookes described feeling fear at this point, as she got back in her car and headed to Reagan’s house. She called her husband Marcus as she pulled into the police station on the way, considering going in and telling them something was wrong. But Marcus told her she should go to the house first and see if Reagan’s car was there. So she did.
Brookes grew even more concerned when she turned the corner to see the garage door was open at the house on Austin Street. It was never left open.
Through tears, Brookes described how she saw streaks of blood in the driveway when she got out of her car. Brookes says she told herself that pets cut their paws and leave streaks like this all the time. Reagan and Homer had dogs. But then she saw more streaks on the driveway and in the garage as she approached the door.
“There’s a bloody fingerprint on my baby’s doorknob,” Jessica recalled on the stand. “So I take my work shirt because I knew something was wrong, and I turned the doorknob, and the door opened just enough I could see a bloody shoeprint on the kitchen floor.”
Brookes says she backed out, shocked.
“If my baby’s in there and she’s hurt, I’ve gotta get to her,” Brookes recalled thinking. So she opened the door back up and took in the bloody scene. Her daughter was on the floor, face down, with her arm over her head. She was facing away. Her blonde hair was stained red with blood. The kitchen was disheveled. That was not like Reagan and Homer, who keep their house clean.
“I knew she was gone, but I said, ‘Reagan! Reagan! It’s Momma! Talk to me, please!’ She didn’t answer.”
Brookes broke down again on the stand as she testified.
It was eerily quiet in the house. The light was not bright, but there was enough to see clearly. Brookes did not see anyone else. She says she was afraid to look for Reagan‘s 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Kynlee.
She backed out of the house again.
“I think I screamed because I didn’t know what to do, what’s going on..”
She says she fell to her knees and then realized she needed to call 911.
“I said, ‘Somebody’s murdered my baby! She’d dead! There’s blood everywhere! Somebody needs to come!”
Her husband, Marcus, and his best friend, Chris Hughes, arrived soon after. Jessica says she begged her husband not to go in. He didn’t need to see Reagan like that. But he went in anyway. He came out with his hand over his mouth, asking, “Why?? Why??”
He collapsed in the driveway. He was having chest pains.
Marcus later took the stand and said his first thought after he came out was, “Where’s Kynlee?” but neither he nor Jessica could bear to go back in. They were afraid of what they would find and did not want to step past Reagan on the living room floor. Hughes also later took the stand and said he initially tried to go around to the front door of the house, only to find it locked. Then he heard Marcus yelling, “‘She’s in there! She’s in there!’
Marcus had been calling out for Kynlee, and finally heard a faint response. But he still could not bring himself to go through the bloodied living room.
Hughes had to step around Reagan’s body and the pools of blood before he made his way down the hallway, looking in each room and calling for Kynlee. He found her in the back bedroom. She was frightened, sitting under a blanket in her bed. It took her a moment to recognize him, but when she did, he says she stood up on the bed and ran to him. He picked her up and grabbed the blanket. He put the blanket over her head so she would not see the scene in the living room and brought her out through the front door.
Reagan‘s husband arrived soon after. Marcus says it was a struggle, but he and Hughes managed to keep him from going inside.
Because they were all witnesses on a crime scene, they were all swabbed for DNA, and photos were taken of the bottoms of their tennis shoes.
Jurors also heard testimony Thursday morning from the paramedics who attended to Reagan’s baby and to Taylor Parker after she was pulled over in De Kalb less than an hour before Reagan’s body was found in New Boston.
One paramedic who rode in the ambulance with Parker testified that parker’s vitals were all normal. His biggest concern was hemorrhaging, but he saw no sign of that.
Still, LifeNet EMT Kelly Gerald also said on the stand that he feels like he was “played for a fool” because he believed her claim that she had just gone through the trauma of giving birth in a car and may have been losing her baby. He had lost a child himself, so he empathized with her. He held her hand and tried to comfort her on the way to the hospital.
“I felt like an idiot after everything came to light.”
LifeNet EMT Paramedic Elton Crossland says Parker told him she was driving down the road when felt her water break and the baby “just came out.”
“To us, it was obvious that the baby was not born in that car,” Crossland said on the stand Thursday.
Childbirth is messy. There’s blood and amniotic fluid. Plus, the amniotic fluid on the baby was dried and flaky signaling the baby wasn’t just born. It had been at least several minutes. The condition of the umbilical cord also indicated the baby had not just been born only minutes before.
Crossland also detailed the measures taken to revive the baby, who had no heartbeat and was not breathing when they arrived. In the ambulance, they gave her epinephrine, intubated her, continued CPR, and helped her breathe with a bag mask. They got her heartbeat back. Crosswood says they were excited that he might be able to save this baby.
“On the way to Idabel, we were on cloud 9,” Crossland testified. “When we got a pulse back, we thought, ‘Wow,’ you know, ‘this is awesome.'”
Despite their best efforts, baby Braxlynn was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Parker’s defense attorney asked questions on cross-examination about the baby’s vital signs and whether the baby was ever alive. But on re-direction, Crossland confirmed that if a baby is stillborn without a pulse, there’s no pulse to get back.
On Thursday afternoon, jurors viewed photos from the crime scene and heard from paramedics and investigators about how they put the pieces together to connect the horrific scene on Austin Street with Taylor Parker.
They also heard from the ER nurse who tried to assess Parker at the hospital, believing she had just given birth.
Details from that testimony will be updated here once testimony is over for the day.