NEW BOSTON, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – One of Taylor Parker’s closest former friends on Thursday described a heart-pounding encounter with her after she questioned the now-convicted killer’s pregnancy claim.
A Bowie County jury convicted Parker on Oct. 3 of capital murder and kidnapping in the death of 21-year-old Reagan Hancock and her unborn baby girl, Braxlynn Sage. Now, the same jury is hearing testimony in the penalty phase of the trial to determine whether she should get the death penalty.
Texts shown in court Thursday between Stephanie Ott and Taylor Parker show Parker complaining extensively about her boyfriend Wade Griffin not paying enough attention to her and then his lack of excitement when she told him she was pregnant in late January of 2020.
That announcement came about a week after Parker called her ex-husband and father of her son and told him Griffin was going to leave her or break up with her and asked if her daughter could come and live with him.
The text exchanges also show that Ott was excited at first about the news of a baby, and the two texted back and forth about baby clothes and baby names and planning a gender reveal party for March 14. Ott was going to arrange for either a bull or a heifer to be brought out, depending on the gender of the baby.
But as the date for the party approached, Ott already had some doubts. Parker gave her an envelope with what she said was the gender information from the women’s clinic and asked her to go into the bathroom to read it so she would not see her reaction and give it away. Ott says the document looked odd. It did not have a letterhead, but “Northeast Texas Women’s Clinic” was typed at the top, followed by a message that read, in part, “You have requested to have the specific results of Taylor R Morton DOB 12/8/92 sent via email for Gender Reveal. It is our greatest pleasure to I Form [SIC] your patient that she is having a Girl.”
The letter and the attached document were shown in court. On the gender document was a note that read, “AMENDED REPORT 11/05/2016: Correction to report dated 11/04/2016…(previous report did not disclose gender).
Ott found this odd and asked Parker about it. Parker told her she would call the doctor’s office to find out. A short time later, Parker was telling Ott that the doctor’s office told her they had 324 misprints on the gender reports.
Ott says she called the lab and they told her, “We don’t even do that here.”
On the stand Thursday, Ott said she did not want to call Parker out at the time because she did not know she could not have children, “so I’m just kinda up in the air about it at this point.”
Ott says Parker never provided another gender confirmation document. She did invite her to one of her doctor appointments but never mentioned it again.
“I think she kinda knew I wasn’t falling for her lies at this point,” Ott said. “I was questioning things.”
Parker sent Ott an ultrasound image, which they planned to display on a table at the gender reveal. But Ott says it looked old and discolored. Parker explained that she had stuck it in her wallet and the magnet messed it up but claimed the clinic had reprinted it and she had to go pick it up.
When Parker’s father and former mother-in-law attended the gender reveal party, Ott wondered if she was wrong about her suspicions.
“She’ll have you thinking you’re crazy for not believing her,” Crisp said to Ott on the stand.
“Oh yes, because I doubted myself several times. Especially when her dad and ex-mother-in-law showed up at the gender reveal. I thought, ‘Okay, she has family here.’”
But when Parker was claiming to be seven to eight weeks along, she told Ott she was having contractions and told her details about the shot she said her doctor was going to give her to stop the contractions. Ott was suspicious enough by then to search for the medication on Google, and it checked out. Still, Ott says she knew it was not possible to have contractions at that early stage of pregnancy. So she called the clinic and asked them if they had ever given the shot to someone having contractions at seven or eight weeks.
“Absolutely not,” the nurse at the clinic told Ott, who then told the nurse that they had a patient that was claiming this and identified that patient as Taylor Parker. After a few seconds of silence, the nurse asked Ott if she would speak with clinic manager Melissa Mason.
Mason has previously testified that when Ott called the clinic with these questions, she could not reveal information protected by patient privacy laws but told Ott to “go with her gut.”
Ott later learned from Parker’s aunt that she could no longer have children due to a hysterectomy.
It all came to a head in April after Stephanie Ott’s husband Codey confronted Wade with his suspicions about Taylor’s claims of being a millionaire while all the checks Wade was writing for big-ticket items were bouncing. Codey had also questioned the legitimacy of Taylor’s pregnancy, which Wade brought back to Taylor and set off a series of emails from “Mandy Body,” the alter ego Taylor created as the reason for all the financial troubles. The Otts had also started to reach out to Taylor’s family members and exes.
Ott described an encounter with Parker in which Ott directly questioned her pregnancy. On the stand, Ott described how Parker crossed her arms and stared at her with one eyebrow up, remaining silent before finally grabbing her head with both hands and shaking it. Ott says Parker then told her, “I was just thinking.”
“Well, my heart was racing, and I went to get a knife,” Ott recalled.
Parker asked her why she was getting a knife, and Ott says she told her it was to sharpen a pencil to fill out her daughter’s softball form.
“Did you get the knife to sharpen the pencil?” Crisp asked Ott.
“Yes, but at that time it was almost a dead stare that had scared me enough that she knew I had caught on to her lies at that point.“
After that, Ott says she told Parker that she had to bring her daughter’s softball uniform to her at school. Parker asked several times to stay behind at the house with Ott’s four-year-old son, who was sleeping, but she ultimately got Parker to leave the house.
Ott also recounted the time shortly after they met in December 2019 when Parker asked her to drive her to a bank in Naples, where she said she was going to meet with her grandmother to withdraw $200,000 dollars for the purchase of cows.
Ott drove Parker there and watched her go inside but never saw Parker’s grandmother. Parker came out later acting as if she was in a panic because the money was not deposited and the bank kicked her out for “going off on them.” Parker said she was angry because the bank shredded her money because it was “old money.”
Parker wanted Ott to tell Griffin that she was kicked out of the bank. When Ott refused, Parker picked up the phone and called Griffin herself to tell him she had been kicked out of the bank and that her grandmother was still in there arguing with the bank. After she hung up, Ott says Parker commented, “that went a lot easier than I thought.”
On the way home from the bank, Parker told Ott that her grandmother was upset because her grandfather had cancer. Prosecutors say a relative of Parker’s has told them the grandfather did not have cancer. Nonetheless, Parker said that her grandmother had to write a $5,300 hot check for her “grandfather’s chemo.” When Ott questioned Parker about why her grandmother would have to write hot checks if she was a millionaire, Parker responded with an elaborate story about different accounts and hoops they had to jump through to get the money moved from one account to another.
Ott says she had no idea about all the financial schemes and the fake cast of characters Taylor created to pull them off. She also testified that it was not the first time Parker had faked a pregnancy with Wade.
After a bonfire at their house, Parker told her earlier in the relationship that she had gone to Shreveport to abort his twins, telling her Wade was “not ready to be a father” and begging her not to tell anyone.
Connie Griffin was called back to the stand Thursday to talk about Taylor’s relationship with her children. Griffin kept the kids on occasion and recounted how she discovered Taylor’s daughter was sleeping on the couch at Wade’s place and got her a bed she and the girl set up in the loft of the small cabin.
At that point, Taylor and Wade had only been dating a few months, but Connie found herself looking after the girl frequently enough that she had to remind Taylor at one point that as fond as she was of the girl, she was not her grandmother and that she needed a break.
Connie testified that Parker told her the reason she did not have custody of her son was that a county judge had come into her hospital room and had her sign her rights away after she had a stroke. Previous testimony in the trial has established that this version of events was not true and that Parker had simply not fought for custody when the boy’s father filed for divorce.
Later during cross-examination, Parker’s defense attorney Jeff Harrelson clarified that Connie Griffin did not know Taylor before she and Wade started dating in 2019 and that she never saw any indication her children were malnourished or that she took them to a drug house or exposed them to pornography.
Connie said she did catch Parker in lies, however. There was the time she asked to borrow some clothes and jewelry for Wade’s company Christmas party, telling her she had not bought clothes for herself in two years. Parker’s daughter would later tell her that her mother went shopping on Black Friday and all she bought was clothes.
Connie also testified that after Parker’s arrest, Wade came to her with a large stack of mail that had quickly piled up in his mailbox, and how it dawned on them that Parker had been burning correspondence that she did not want Wade to see, including demands for child support payments.
“That burn barrel was always burning, and I could not understand why is there always so much trash being burned,” Connie said.
Thursday’s testimony also finally addressed the letter that Parker’s defense attorney tried to introduce during the first phase of the trial. Prosecutors strenuously objected, pointing out the fact that evidence is not admissible during cross-examination of a state’s witness and that it was not relevant to proving Parker’s guilt or innocence. It is, however, relevant to the penalty phase, where prosecutors and Parker’s defense team can bring witnesses and evidence about whether Parker showed any remorse.
Parker wrote the two-page letter to Connie’s husband Jimmy a few weeks after her arrest. Connie testified that Jimmy “really liked” Taylor. They spent a lot of time together, as Wade’s place was not far from theirs and Connie and Wade worked a lot. Jimmy was retired and had hernia surgery, so he would frequently ask Parker for help lifting feed bags and the like. The two grew close, and Connie says Jimmy thought a lot of her.
In fact, Connie says, Jimmy would often defend her when Connie would raise questions about her financial claims. Connie previously testified that Jimmy brushed off Connie’s suspicion that the car Taylor had supposedly bought for her was actually being repossessed when Taylor told her she needed to bring it over to Wade’s for the dealership to pick up for repairs on a recalled part.
Connie said she told him they would never see the car again.
“’Well now, you don’t know that,’” he told her. Connie says he said that about a lot of things when it came to Taylor.
Connie also says Taylor acted differently with Jimmy than she did with her and that she seemed just as fond of Jimmy as he was of her.
The letter that arrived in the mailbox a few days after Thanksgiving came addressed to Jimmy with the jail as the return address.
In the letter, Parker apologized to Jimmy.
“First off, I am going to ask you to forgive me. Not that I deserve it but that I’ve asked God for forgiveness and I believe he has showed me. I believe His forgiveness should come first – and that is something you taught me.”
Parker also talks about Wade in the letter, writing, “You and myself know how he gets…and by he I mean (Wade) his stubbornness from Connie but it’s the fun and lovable Kind….Wade is an amazing, strong, intelligent, loving man….you need to know you did an exceptional job raising those boys, including Mrs. Connie…I don’t understand how this happened or why but I miss my kids and my family. But im okay. I’ve prayed. I think we may ask questions that we will never receive answers to. I hope you can truly find it in your heart to forgive me. I loved you like a dad Mr. Jimmy please know that. I truly loved Wade as well…”
In a post-script, Parker tells Jimmy that she has also written a letter to Wade but still had not sent it and asked him not to mention this letter.
“Just really surprised that there would be a letter written to him. He read the letter, and I don’t think he actually intended to respond or anything.”
Connie said Jimmy appreciated her compliments and her thanking him, but he did not write Taylor back, and as far as she knows, she has not sent that letter to Wade.
While Crisp noted that Parker asks for Jimmy’s forgiveness in the letter, “she doesn’t know how it happened and that there’s questions out there that we just don’t know the answers to.”
On cross-examination, Harrelson questioned how much Connie knew about Taylor’s relationship with her father. Connie said she met him once at the gender reveal and did not see him again in person until he came to get her things after the murder.
“So, you don’t have a lot of personal knowledge about her prior to 2019. But you saw in the letter that she loved Jimmy like a father,” Harrelson said, asking Connie if she knew Taylor also called Wade’s boss, Roger Pate her dad. Connie said she did not.
Crisp came back for one more question after this exchange, remarking that the letter and the apology to Jimmy might have seemed nice, but did Connie know that Parker had tried to frame a fellow inmate for the murder? Connie said she did not know about that, either.
Jurors also heard from Griffin and Parker‘s neighbors in Simms.
Tiffany Maynard lived across the street. She said Parker seemed “very nice” when she moved in and Griffin introduced her as his girlfriend. Since Wade was away a lot, he had asked her to let him know if she ever say anything “funny” at his house. So when she saw someone in his yard taking the tractor that had just been delivered weeks before.
After she let Wade know, Maynard says Parker texted her to tell her Wade wanted her to know that it was getting fixed, not repossessed. In reality, the tractor was being repossessed because the $63,000 check Griffin had written for it had bounced.
Maynord says Taylor told her she was pregnant and that when she had the baby, the doctor was going to have to “shock” her heart because it was “off-rhythm.” Maynard testified that she had never heard of that and told Parker it seemed like a very odd procedure. She asked Parker if she was sure, and Parker said that was what the doctor recommended.
“And I said okay, that sounds really scary. Dangerous, really.”
She said Parker told Maynard due dates due to different circumstances but that she did not discuss those details with her as much as the other neighbor did.
But she did see Parker walking down the street one time after an argument with Griffin.
“You could hear that they were arguing and then she was walking down the street saying, ‘I’m gonna kill him.’ I mean, she was angry.”
Maynard would often come over and take care of the dogs or let them out when Parker and Wade were out of town.
Maynard did not know about the fire at Wade’s place on Oct. 5 until she saw the fire investigator over there on the morning of Oct. 9 when she went to go let the dogs out.
At 9:47 a.m., Maynard texted Taylor.
“Taylor! There’s a guy in a hazmat suit going into y’all house! Ummm do I need to go get those dogs? and is it ok for me to go in there? lol and how are you and is ur house ok!”
“Yes, the adjuster house caught on fire under neath,” Taylor responded at 10:39 a.m.
“Oh, **** well hot dam that’s scary!!!” Maynard responded. “Ok so dogs are ok in there and its ok for me to go in?”
“Yes of course,” Parker responded at 10:40 a.m.
“Ok I’ll let him do his thing then head over and let them out,” Maynard told Parker.
Records show Parker arrived at the hospital at 10:47 a.m, which means she was texting Tiffany Maynard at this point from the ambulance after being pulled over in DeKalb with Reagan Hancock’s unresponsive baby in her lap. Parker gave no indication that anything was amiss.
Later the same day, Tiffany described the surreal scene that played out at Wade‘s house following Parker‘s arrest as investigators arrived with search warrants.
“I was in shock. I didn’t know what to think. It was a very odd evening. I really don’t even know how to explain it.”
Maynard said she had to go see her therapist after the arrest.
“To know that she was capable of that was just disturbing.”
Suzette Connors lived right across the road. She went to school with Wade from elementary school through high school, and testified that she had heard the rumors that Parker might not be pregnant through mutual friends who also knew Parker but as far as she knew at the time, they were just rumors.
Connors says Parker’s daughter spent a great deal of time alone after getting off the bus at Wade’s house, from what she could tell. Suzette worried about the traffic on the busy county road so she would try to watch out for her without overstepping her boundaries. She let Parker’s daughter play with her daughter at her house until Parker or Griffin came home.
Connor’s daughter spent the night over at Wade’s house a few times, until her daughter came back from a sleepover and said they had been playing with a Ouija board and watching scary, demonic movies. After that, Connors said she did not let her daughter spend the night anymore.
Connors said she also saw Parker’s daughter doing chores she thought were inappropriate for a 10-year-old, such as driving a large UTV “at a high rate of speed” down to feed the couple’s hunting dogs. With hunters in her own family, Connors said she knew hunting dogs can be aggressive and she did not think it was a good idea to put the child in that situation.
Connors said she knew of a son but saw him maybe five times the whole time Parker lived there.
Connors also said Parker quickly figured out that she was not as gullible as the other neighbor.
“I’d ask certain questions and I guess it triggered something with Taylor and she avoided me after that.”
Those conversations were about Parker’s due date and maternity leave. Parker first told her her due date was at the end of September, but then it got changed multiple times. When Connors asked her how maternity leave was going and said she saw her off work, Parker told her she got six weeks before and six weeks after.
“I was thinking, ‘I didn’t get that when I had my child!’”
She says Parker also blocked her on Facebook after she started asking too many questions and made a point to avoid her.
Before Connors left the stand, Assistant Bowie County District Attorney Lauren Richards asked her about the day she noticed Parker’s SnapChat account had been reactivated. It was April 30, 2022. Parker had been behind bars for 18 months at that point.
Connors said she was never friends with Parker on SnapChat but on that date, she got a notification that one of her contacts, Taylor Parker, had become active on the social media app.
On cross-examination, Harrelson asked her if she had any way of knowing whether that was really Parker.
Another former friend took the stand Thursday and testified about how Parker was always telling different stories about her childhood but that she never spoke of any abuse.
“She loved her dad, she was a daddy’s girl,” McKenzie Bright testified.
Bright said Parker never got along with her mother, however. She recalled one time when they were meeting up with Shona Prior so she could take the kids.
“Taylor and her mother were always aggravated with each other anytime they talked. It was very much the same that day in the drive-through. Taylor was very irritated with her. She was taking her kids so she could have time to herself, so she didn’t need to be like that.”
But Shona took it and gave it right back, adding, “They’d just holler at each other and her mother would degrade her,” Bright recalled. “I could not imagine myself and my mother being that aggressive with each other.”
Still, Bright said, “Taylor pawned the kids off on Shona all the time.”
Parker told her that she had a stroke when she was married to Tommy Wacasey “and things just weren’t working anymore after the stroke and she just let Tommy have him because it was too much on her.”
But Bright said Parker’s parenting skills revealed themselves in time.
“When it benefitted her to look like a good mother, she looked like a good mother. But when there were no eyes on her, it was the exact opposite…She was not an attendant mother, not a loving mother.”
Bright said it was clear that Taylor’s second husband, Hunter Parker, loved Taylor’s daughter very much and the girl loved him. It wasn’t long after they were married that Taylor started talking about wanting Hunter to adopt her daughter “so that she could have a good loving father.” Taylor told Bright that after the split with Tommy, he really didn’t have a whole lot to do with her. Bright testified she did not know about Tommy’s parents wanting to adopt the girl.
When Taylor and Hunter would fight, Bright testified that it almost seemed like she used her daughter to get Hunter to stay with her, telling him that they might not be getting long, but reminding him of the loving relationship he had with the girl.
Taylor later dated Bright’s brother Bo for a few weeks. Bright and her brother had a falling out over it, but she said Parker fawned over Bo’s9-year-old daughter and the single father was happy to have someone to be a mother figure for her.
Prosecutors showed selfies Parker posted Bo’s daughter, taking her to work and out for treats.
Bo’s daughter and Parker’s daughter were close in age, but McKenzie felt that Taylor treated Brooklyn better than she did her own child.
Bright testified that her former friend was always obsessed with how she looked and how she portrayed herself. She would spend hours on end primping and was always changing and fixing her hair. She never went out without makeup,
“I can count on one hand how many times I saw her without makeup,” Bright said. “Even when we were laying around the house watching movies, she’d be in the bathroom fixin’ her hair.”
Bright said Parker was very dismissive or grew agitated very quickly if anyone ever questioned or confronted her.
One time, Bright said, she was hormonal because of her pregnancy. She said Parker told her she needed to get her hormones in line and that just because she was pregnant did not give her a reason to act the way she was acting.”
Growing emotional on the stand, Bright recalled that she stopped being friends with Parker after that but later met a girl that recognized her from pictures Taylor had shown her and expressly told her she wished Bright had miscarried so that the hormones would not have changed her.
“Especially because I know how obsessed she was with my pregnancy from the minute I tested positive,” Bright said. “It just shook me. She knew how much it meant to me to be pregnant. She went with me to all my fertility appointments. She was my support person. And then cut her off and she wants the baby to die?”
Also taking the stand Thursday were officers who responded to the bomb threat called in to Titus Regional Medical Center on Oct. 5. They spoke of the impact the threat had not only on patients and staff at the hospital but on the city itself as a result of the lockdown required while police methodically searched the hospital and surrounding streets were shut down.
Mount Pleasant Police Department Lt. Bryan Denny said the call, placed at 5:12 a.m., also forced the closure of the hospital’s emergency room and the diversion of ambulances to other, smaller hospitals.
Testimony is set to resume Monday in the third week of the penalty phase of the trial which is expected to continue through the beginning of November.