NEW BOSTON, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – A jury in Bowie County found Taylor Parker guilty Monday morning of capital murder in the death of Reagan Hancock and the kidnapping and murder of her unborn baby, Braxlynn Sage Hancock.
Parker, who was 27 at the time of the Oct. 9, 2020 murders, was charged with kidnapping and capital murder. The 21-year-old New Boston mother was strangled, beaten, and repeatedly stabbed, all with her three-year-old daughter in the house. The baby was later pronounced dead at the hospital after a Texas DPS trooper pulled Parker over in De Kalb on the morning of the murder with the newborn in her lap, unresponsive.
After less than one hour of deliberation, the jury of six men and six women returned with a unanimous verdict.
“I’m so excited, and I thank the jury so much,” Reagan’s aunt, Jamie Mason, said after the verdict. “We weren’t for sure, but we hoped it was coming to that, and I know sentencing doesn’t start until October 12th, but just pray for the family because it’s still a hard time until we know for sure you know what she’s going to get but we just pray every day that she gets what she deserves for what she did for Reagan and Braxlynn.”
The decision comes after three weeks of testimony, followed by closing arguments on Monday, in which the state argued that Taylor Parker is a liar and a master manipulator who plotted and intended to kill Reagan Hancock and take her baby.
Parker showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Sniffles could be heard in the gallery.
Each side had up to one hour to make their arguments after Judge John Tidwell read the charges to the jury.
“In the past two weeks, the evidence has never been more clear,” Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards told the jury. “She’s a liar, a manipulator and now she’s gonna be held accountable for it.”
Richards said they proved Parker’s motive and intent, pointing to the timeline they laid out showing her search for a way to “prove everyone wrong” intensified after her boyfriend got an anonymous warning via 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,” Richards said.
Richards showed the jury the timeline once more, from the weeks leading up to the murder.
“Those are all of the steps she took in preparation,” Richards said. “Then she gets to the house. Talk about intentional murder!”
“The motive here is to maintain and keep the relationship with Wade at any cost,” Richards continued. “She felt so strongly about that motive that she murdered Reagan. You heard from crime scene investigators and the medical examiner what kind of bloodletting went on in that house.”
While showing the jury the x-ray from the medical examiner of the scalpel blade embedded in Reagan Hancock’s neck, Richards walked the jury one last time through what happened after Taylor got herself invited to her house that morning.
“At some point, she stuns Reagan Hancock with a hammer blow to the head. Reagan Hancock is getting ready for her last day at work at Flying Burger, and she still has to get Kynlee to daycare. She only got as far as getting her out of nighttime pull-ups. Taylor beats her in the head one, two, three, four, five times, bashing her in the skull with the front and back of a hammer.“
After an assault and beating that took place “all over the house,“ Richards said, “Taylor Parker gets her subdued enough to get the baby. The pain Reagan must have felt as Taylor Parker started cutting her abdomen from hip to hip. It isn’t describable the pain she must have suffered. She had to have been yelling. She didn’t stop. She passed the point of no return.”
“‘I have to get what I’m here for,’” Richards said. “You saw that video. You know what she had to cut through to get to the baby. She pulled her uterus out and cut it open from the back to get the baby. And the defensive wounds on Reagan’s hands, with her finger almost cut off, shows you she fought.”
Richards made clear to the jury that the evidence shows Reagan was alive when Parker cut the baby from her womb but knew she could not leave her alive before she left the house.
“When Taylor had the baby and Reagan Hancock was still alive, that’s when Taylor Parker starts slashing and cutting because she can’t leave her alive. It was no quick death. In fact, it would finish using the scalpel and gotten the bay out and then for good measure, tried to decapitate her, essentially, and left that scalpel in her neck.”
Then, to drive the cold-bloodedness of the attack home, Richard reminded the jury that Texarkana Texas Police Department crime scene investigator Marc Sillivan testified that the deep, clean-cut slashes on Hancock’s neck did not bleed because it likely happened after she was already dead or close to it.
“She just kept cutting her. I guess Reagan wouldn’t die fast enough for Taylor to get out of there and finish her plan.“
Richards said Parker then changed her footwear, tried to clean herself up, and left the scene.
“That’s what she was worried about, not the baby. Getting rid of evidence.”
The black jacket, crew-neck shirt, and sandals Parker was seen wearing on surveillance video from the EZ Mart near Hancock’s Austin Street home this morning have never been found. Neither has Reagan’s phone, the knife believed used in the assault, the rest of the scalpel, or the fake belly Parker ordered online and wore for months in order to appear pregnant.
“She absolutely abducted Braxlynn,” Richards added, anticipating the defense’s main argument that the baby was not technically born and therefore could not be abducted. “She wanted to take her home and pretend she was hers.”
Richards noted that testimony showed Braxlynn had a heartbeat and a time of death: October 9, 2020, at 1:22 p.m.
“Medical personnel agree if she was stillborn, they would not have been able to get a pulse.”
Parker also told Bi-State inmate Shonnaree Yeager that the baby was alive in the car when she left Reagan’s house and headed for the hospital to have the newborn’s birth registered as hers, even if she refused to admit that to the police.
“We have a fake pregnancy turned into a fake stillbirth. There wasn’t going to go any other way. She was never gonna admit that baby was born alive.”
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 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.
“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 she also decided when Reagan was gonna die,” Crisp said.
“Do you know who decides whether a baby is alive? You,” Crisp told the jury. “Y’all decide the boundary. Is it open season on pregnant mothers because we’re gonna say those aren’t kids?”
“Y’all tell her. Obviously, Reagan’s life had no value, and Braxlynn’s life had no value to Taylor Parker. But those lives have value to us, and I’m sure they have value to you. So you’re going to tell her. You’re gonna tell her what you think of what she’s done and all she’s put into it and that it’s gonna stop today. You tell Taylor Parker what you think about what she’s done.”
Prosecutors have said they are seeking the death penalty due to the heinous and pre-meditated nature of the crime and because Parker showed no remorse.
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 if she is convicted. That phase of the trial is expected to begin October 12 and it is expected to last two to three weeks.