NEW BOSTON, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – Closing arguments are set to get underway Wednesday morning in the Taylor Parker capital murder trial after prosecutors spent Tuesday rebutting testimony presented by her defense team as they made their case for Parker to get life in prison.
The State is seeking the death penalty for the 29-year-old, who was convicted on Oct. 3 by a Bowie County jury for the murder of 21-year-old Hancock and her unborn baby, Braxlynn Sage, on Oct. 9, 2020.
On Tuesday, prosecutors bought two forensic psychologists to the stand to testify about details they say Parker revealed to them in her version of the events leading up to the murders. While both doctors said these accounts included more lies, they also shed more light on the convicted killer’s state of mind and motivations for faking her pregnancy and killing Reagan Hancock.
Among the new details revealed was Parker’s admission that she targeted a pregnant woman in Paris, Texas, before she killed Reagan Hancock and took her baby instead. Investigators have previously testified that Parker repeatedly searched and stalked women’s clinics in search of a victim, even looking up license tags of vehicles of some of the clinics’ pregnant patients. Parker confirmed that in her interviews with the State’s experts and insisted that she did not go to the Hancocks’ home that day intending to kill Reagan.
Dr. Timothy Proctor interviewed Parker for more than 10 hours over a span of two days just before the trial got underway in early September. The other interview was conducted by Dr. Michael Arambula, who testified earlier in the penalty phase of the trial after reviewing her medical records and other evidence presented in the trial, including the faked confession letters prosecutors said she wrote.
Arambula got the chance to interview Parker himself on Oct. 14 after the State got a court order to allow its own experts to examine her.
Arambula said his examination only confirmed his opinion that Parker was not suffering from any mental illness when she killed Reagan Hancock. He still believes Parker exhibits Cluster B personality disorders, which are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional, or unpredictable thinking or behavior. Specifically, he said he found features of narcissistic, borderline, and histrionic personality disorders, as well as many of the characteristics of antisocial personality disorder. Arambula noted this was unusual to find in his 30 years of experience as a forensic psychiatrist.
“This was the first time I have ever seen somebody have so many features all at the same time.”
Arambula also dismissed defense testimony from the neurologist who took the stand Monday and claimed he found evidence of “severe” frontal lobe atrophy in Parker’s brain, despite the fact that medical records from other doctors going back some ten years indicate they found no signs of deterioration.
“How likely is it all of them would have totally missed this severe frontal lobe dysfunction?” Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards asked Arambula.
“Highly unlikely. That’s their specialty,” he responded, noting that they are licensed and practicing physicians. ”To miss it so badly for so many years, that’s not possible.”
To drive the point home, Richards showed the jury a scan of a real patient who does have severe atrophy of the white and grey matter of the brain and compared it to a scan of Parker’s brain. The difference was marked, with significantly more gaps indicating atrophy visible in the scan of the real patient’s brain than in the scan of Parker’s brain.
Arambula testified that people who truly have this kind of deterioration in the brain require assisted living and often cannot even remember their own children and grandchildren. He testified that he did not see any signs of brain or cognitive impairment during his four-hour exam of Parker and he disagrees with Dr. Siddhartha Nadkarni’s opinion that her brain is “broken.” He also dismissed Nadkarni’s assertion that this kind of brain dysfunction would be the cause of Parker’s habit of “confabulation,” which Nadkarni testified was the same as pathological lying.
Arambula said the two are not the same.
“Confabulation covers islands of memory that they don’t have, and they use this in those instances, not all the time. When confronted with the truth, they aren’t likely to acknowledge they were wrong because they are not deliberately lying consciously. That’s what separates it from pathological lying.”
Arambula noted in his report that Parker has a “remarkable history of pathological lying” and no history of psychotic symptoms or serious mental illness.
She had trouble accepting it when doctors ultimately told her that her symptoms were likely psychological and not physical, but tearfully admitted to Arambula that she exaggerated and made up some of the symptoms.
”She was pretty embarrassed at the time. Her eyes welled up, and it was hard for her to accept that.”
First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp noted that Parker told different versions of her history of sexual assault and attempted suicide than what she reportedly told Nadkarni, downplaying both to Arambula.
In both interviews with the State’s experts, Parker claimed she had confided in Reagan about her lies about money and her fake pregnancy. She claimed Reagan was going to help her and that they were supposed to meet up to talk about it on the morning of the murder. But Parker said she got paranoid and killed Reagan instead before deciding to take the baby.
Parker told Dr. Timothy Proctor her version of the events leading up to the murder, going all the way back to when she claims the two reconnected when they ran into each other at Walmart the month before the murder. Parker claimed she saw Reagan was bruised and insinuated that Reagan’s husband Homer was abusive. Parker said the two commiserated about their respective relationships and that she eventually came clean with Reagan about her lies about her finances and fake pregnancy.
The night before the murder, Parker told Proctor that she visited Reagan at her house and they talked about how she was going to get out of the seemingly impossible situation she had created for herself.
She told Proctor that she was “beyond in a corner,” “beyond jar runneth over,” and that she “could no longer hold the weight” of her situation, describing her state of mind at the time as “a paranoid mess.” According to Parker, Reagan’s goal was to help her “get out of a lie” but also added that they also knew that doing so “might take a bigger lie.”
Homer Hancock previously testified in the trial about Parker’s visit that night, describing how the two went into the bedroom and shut the door. According to Parker, Reagan did not want her husband to hear, fearing that what they were discussing would get back to Parker’s boyfriend, Wade. Once they got into the bedroom, according to Parker, Reagan told her she would help her but only under the condition that she would take her daughter and leave Wade and have no further contact with him. Parker claimed to Proctor that she was fine with that.
She said they planned to meet again at Hancock’s house the next morning but that Hancock did not respond right away to her messages. When she arrived, Parker said, she could tell that something was wrong.
According to the report Proctor wrote detailing the interview, Parker said she was relieved at first after telling Reagan everything but that she started to “slowly retreat” into herself when she got there and saw a “pained” look on Reagan’s face. She described how Reagan appeared to be bracing herself for a difficult conversation and looked at her “like you look at an animal before you end its life.”
At that point, Parker said she thought to herself, “You gave her all that ammo.“ Parker later told Proctor that Reagan said something like, “I just can’t,” and that she put her hands on Reagan’s shoulders and either said or at least thought to herself, “please help.”
Proctor said Parker was tearful as she recounted this version of events, saying that she had “played it over in her mind a million times“ and that she does not know “where her mind went” or “all of the sequence of events.“ Parker recalled seeing the look of fear and Reagan‘s eyes but claimed she does not remember assaulting her. Instead, she maintains that she “blacked out,“ and then remembers coming to and seeing what she had done to Reagan. She said the last thought she had right before she put her hands on Reagan’s shoulders was, “I’m gonna have to kill myself to get out of this. I don’t remember if it was anger, if it was sadness. I don’t know.“
And yet when Proctor asked Parker what she was feeling right before she allegedly blacked out, she did not answer directly. Instead, Proctor says, she told him that she had seen the crime scene photos and that “clearly, anger came out.” However, she did not recall feeling anger in that moment and added that she was “more hurt than anything.“
Parker told Proctor that her first thought after coming to and seeing what she had done was that she needed to get out of there, but she could not do that because she “just wanted to save the baby.“ She said she was begging Reagan to breathe and push, and – as she has claimed in other versions of the story – they made the decision to cut the baby out.
According to Proctor, Parker said she “couldn’t even begin to think straight” at the time and that “remorse did not even begin to cover it.” She said she was trying to keep from passing out and “was not in a state of mind where she would probably make one right decision.” She also said “at that point what was right and wrong was just…” before trailing off without finishing the thought.
“Yes, I lied, but not in a million years would I have expected to do this,“ Proctor says Parker told him.
Proctor said Parker claimed that she knew Reagan’s daughter was in the house at the time and saw her once that morning but that the three-year-old did not see what happened. Reagan’s mother, Jessica Brookes, would later take the stand and testify that the child has told them things they did not even know about the horrific scene in her mother’s living room that morning and shows other signs that she saw things that left her traumatized.
Brookes said the little girl stares at pregnant women and wants to make sure they’re not bleeding, and dislikes a photo Brookes keeps in a locket around her neck because her mother is wearing a red shirt in it and the child thinks it is blood.
During her interview with Dr. Proctor, Parker promised “on her kids’ lives” that what she did to Reagan was not premeditated. And yet, investigators found evidence that Parker was searching the internet and watching YouTube videos early on the morning of the murder about how to deliver a baby, vaginal births, c-sections, and how to do a physical exam of a 35-week pre-term baby.
Proctor asked Parker about that. He says she paused at first and told him she did not know if she should discuss the subject further. He told her it was up to her but that it was his job to ask. He said she was smiling and giggling at this point in the interview and offered that she did not think the topic was funny but that it was a stressful situation. She went on to explain that Reagan was “never her target.” Instead, she told him, she had been driving to Paris and watching a pregnant woman who was about as far along as she was claiming to be. She said that she knew this women’s “patterns” and had planned to take her baby, not Reagan’s.
She said she knew the state “will make it out that way,” but that what happened “is not that at all.” Proctor says she did acknowledge that when she was pulled over driving with the baby she was aware the baby was dead, but she felt that she still had to try “because she owed Reagan that much.”
Parker told Proctor that she has wondered what Reagan told her husband about what they talked about that night and that she thinks he knows more than he has “put on.”
Parker got particularly animated on the topic of remorse, according to Proctor. She told him that over the past two and a half years, she has repeatedly heard that she does not have it, and that it “irks the **** out of her.” She said she hates the word now and said a person like her can have a “great heart” and “cry her eyes out, but people will still say she had no remorse. According to Proctor, her response to these people is, “Why don’t you try walking a mile in my **** shoes?”
Proctor said Parker was tearful at times during the interviews, telling him she is not a bad person, evil, or a monster. She told him that she does not enjoy when bad things happen to people and that she would trade places with Reagan if she could.
“She said that she blames no one but herself but then added there were many cases where she was begging for help, but no one helped,” Proctor wrote in his report. “She also said it’s important for people to know that she takes responsibility for what she did and that she is not ‘pleading for mercy or anything,’ but that she views the death penalty as ‘just a legal form of revenge,’ and that people do not focus on the extent to which the defense side of the family in such a case is also hurting.
During that interview, Parker also denied having anything to do with the alleged plot to frame a fellow inmate, claiming the other inmates who came forward to authorities wrote the fake confession letters in a bid to get their sentences reduced. Parker also denied ever reaching out to her former mother-in-law, Doni Wacasey, in an attempt to find someone who could carry out a “hit” on her mother.
In his conclusions, Proctor also found that Parker suffers from no severe mental disease or defect and that there is no evidence that she did at the time of the murder. Proctor agreed with Arambula’s opinion that Parker meets the criteria for borderline personality disorder, with antisocial and histrionic personality traits. What’s more, he found that she is likely attempting to fake or exaggerate psychological difficulties.
“I do not see any connection between the alleged offense and any type of severe mental disease or defect,” Proctor concluded. “She has not presented with severe mental disease or defect at any point in her life including at the time of the alleged offense.”
“Overall,” Proctor testified, “it was a planned course of action. She planned to kill Reagan Hancock and take her baby.”
“You can look at the same subject matter and come up with a different opinion,” Harrelson said on re-direct before going over details from Proctor’s report that favor the defense claim that Parker was mistreated as a child by her mother and suffered trauma as a result of her parents’ divorce.
Parker told Proctor that she had started living the lies she was telling and got to the point that she did not know right from wrong.
“What does that say to you?” Harrelson asked Proctor.
“That she started living the way she wanted to be rather than where she was, and eventually the line blurred,” Proctor said.
“But she told the truth to you that she lies,” Harrison said.
Harrelson also asked Proctor about the results of a psychopathy assessment he conducted on Parker in which she scored a 23 out of 40, as well as his findings that she exhibits psychopathic traits, especially pathological lying and manipulation.
“She’s not what we would call a sociopath, someone with full psychopathy,” Proctor explained. “If you have a 30 or more, you are a full psychopath. She has some of the traits but isn’t a full psychopath.”
While Parker told Arambula much of the same general story about killing Reagan Hancock after becoming paranoid that she was going to turn her in to police, he did glean some details that he said gave him insight into why she faked the pregnancy in the first place – and why she went out of her way to dispose of Reagan’s cell phone before heading for the hospital in Idabel with the kidnapped baby.
As she did with Proctor in his interview with her before the trial began, Parker denied to Arambula that she had targeted Reagan to kill her and take her baby. She also told him Reagan already knew she had been faking her pregnancy. Parker claimed Reagan told her Wade was only staying in the relationship for the money and had been talking to other women. Parker confessed to her obsession with wanting a baby and told Reagan she had been following pregnant women and thought about taking one.
According to Parker, Reagan told her she “couldn’t just get a baby” and asked her whether she had thought about hurting the pregnant women she followed. Parker denied considering that option. Parker said Reagan suggested they meet again, and she initially felt that she genuinely wanted to help her with her situation. But she said she began to obsessively worry that the things she had divulged to Reagan could send her to prison if anyone found out.
Arambula said Parker told him she went to Reagan’s home on the morning of the murder wanting reassurance from Reagan that she would not say anything about what she had told her. In her paranoia, Parker had already deleted many of the text messages she had with her about their private lives and researched how to permanently delete them from each other’s phones. She shared what she learned about that with Reagan after she arrived, but then Reagan told her that she needed to leave Wade, come clean, or tell him that she lost the baby.
None of those options allowed Parker to save face, and she did not want people calling her a liar. She was upset with Reagan’s stern tone and felt that she did not have any other options.
When Reagan allegedly told her that there was something not right about her during this conversation, Parker said it felt as if Reagan was walking away from her. Parker said she did not remember what happened after that until she heard Reagan’s daughter “hollering” from the hallway. She told Arambula that she had always carried a medical kit with her when she went hog hunting and that she used the scalpel in it to remove the baby. She claimed she knew what to do from watching videos – reportedly out of her own curiosity – but she did not recall how or why she removed the placenta and said that she “just did it.”
She said she tried to do CPR on the baby on the couch, and then changed clothes and rinsed her arms in the sink before getting in the car with the baby and the placenta, leaving Reagan’s daughter alone in the home. She told Arambula that she “just wanted to get help for the baby” and “wasn’t thinking.”
On the stand, Arambula said Parker showed a “callousness and disregard for another human being.“
Parker never detailed the murder itself to either forensic psychologist, even though prosecutors say she did include some information that only the killer could have known in the faked confession letters.
Parker claimed Reagan was dead when she removed the baby, but the evidence in the case has shown otherwise. Arambula said Parker’s claims that she did not plan to kill Reagan also ring hollow, considering she brought a change of clothes and had the scalpel handy. Her claim that she was only thinking about trying to save the baby’s life is inconsistent with the side trip she took to the Red River to get rid of the evidence. Arambula said he believes Parker took Reagan’s phone to try to get rid of the messages they exchanged.
“This more than likely appeared to be a plan, and she stuck with her plan,” said Arambula.
Parker told Arambula that she was stressed before the murder and worried about losing her job, on top of all of the financial lies that were starting to become unmanageable. According to Arambula, Parker recalled feeling happy when she was actually pregnant before and that she faked this pregnancy to feel better even though it was shameful to acknowledge it now. It had the added benefit of Wade paying attention to her. She said the lies about the money were different, telling Arambula that she preferred living the fantasy life that was in her head and was “just going to keep doing it.”
Arambula pointed to that and other hallmarks of borderline personality disorder he saw in Parker’s behavior.
“Her rather grand plans to obtain money and property and her recurrent boasts of occupational expertise and beauty speak for themselves, not to mention her sensitivity to criticism from others,” Arambula wrote in his report, noting that she is “very sensitive to abandonment and being left alone,” and that she “struggled with personal self-confidence, sexual promiscuity, and elicited chaos in her relationships with others – characteristic of borderline pathology.”
In spite of the rage evident from the crime scene, Arambula said he was unable to detect such rage during several hour-long examinations of her.
“Her deceptive personal demeanor – a pleasant and engaging veneer atop a core of rage – is consistent with borderline pathology, which I must add is robust and eerie…Her rampant history of deception and disregard for others was remarkable, and her lack of responsibility and remorse were particularly notable.”
Overall, Arambula said, the “combination of substantial Borderline and Antisocial personality pathology that Ms. Parker harbors carried a causal relationship to the brutal murder she committed, and it remains clinically evident that subsequent records (ie: her incarceration) and my forensic evaluation of her show that it remains unchanged.”
“Her ability to have this pretty thick veneer of normality is pretty dangerous, in my opinion,” Arambula explained on the stand. “It goes along with that ability to harbor such rage and actually look normal.”
He also testified that Parker broke down and cried when he asked her about remorse but that she was able to recover quickly when he changed the subject, unlike those who are genuinely upset about something and struggle to switch the emotion off.
“That’s borderline personality.”
Arambula said this case is like no other he has ever seen.
From writing to the FBI about her ability to deceive people and the details of the horrendous crime itself to trying to blame other people and “leaving that little girl in the house,” Arambula said, ”It’s pretty eye-opening, that’s all I can tell you. I‘ve seen a lot of stuff.”
He believes Parker will continue to lie and manipulate, plot, and create chaos, all without remorse, and that she could cause all kinds of chaos even from behind bars if she gets life in prison without parole.
“I understand how important security is in prison because there are so many more prisoners than guards. Structure enhances the security. But when there’s chaos, things can happen.”
Things like escapes, assaults, and murders.
“So that’s the part of her that I’m worried about.”
Arambula said a lot of the kind of women Parker would likely be imprisoned with her that are there for “lower-level” offenses and often come from particularly difficult circumstances who have struggled with poverty and been victims themselves of sexual abuse and assault, prostitution, and drug abuse. He said throwing Taylor Parker into the mix would not go well.
“It would be easy pickings.”
Following the testimony from the forensic psychologist, prosecutors asked Judge John Tidwell for permission to introduce new evidence gathered earlier in the morning in a search of Parker’s jail cell.
A razor, a schematic drawing of the Bowie County Jail Annex, and a mask with sunflowers on it were among the items delivered to the judge in a box just before 3 p.m. Parker wore the sunflower mask in pre-trial hearings in what prosecutors say was a cruel and intentional move, given that sunflowers were Reagan Hancock’s favorite flower and Parker knew it.
Those items, plus a copper wire from a headphone set that was also confiscated from Parker’s cell, are contraband. The judge confirmed that the razor was not the same one that was previously found in her cell, which means this was yet another one.
Prosecutors said these items all go to counter claims by the defense that Parker is not a future danger, which is a key question that jurors will have to answer in determining whether she gets the death penalty.
Defense attorney Jeff Harrelson pointed out that the schematic is of the Bi-State Detention Center and not the Annex across the street where Parker is being held. He argued that it was “more prejudicial than probative” to let the jury see the new evidence, noting that they never actually said Parker is not a future danger.
“We may argue that and insinuate that, but we haven’t put it on the record.”
“She’s in possession of contraband in literally the final hours of her death penalty trial,” Crisp countered. “It could not be more relevant.”
The judge agreed to allow the new items into evidence and allow the jury to hear about them.
Reagan’s mother, Jessica Brookes, said she and her family took Parker wearing that sunflower mask in court as a personal affront to her and her family when she took the stand on Wednesday afternoon.
Brookes had previously testified in the first phase of the trial about finding her daughter’s body on the morning of her murder. On Wednesday, the grieving mother testified about the pain and loss she and her family continue to suffer as a result of Parker’s actions.
“It’s never-ending right now. Our family has always been very close. I wake up every day, and I think that it’s not real. We were happy the way our family was, and now Reagan’s gone and it’s changed everything. She’s gone, number one. And number two, we’re distant from other family members that we were close to and it’s – it’s just not fair. Watching (Reagan’s daughter) grow up without her Mommy. That’s the worst part, I’d take all the pain in the world if I could take it away from her. It’s so hard to explain. It’s just a void. I have all these people around me, and I’m alone. I’m alone.”
Jurors reached for the tissues as Brookes broke down in sobs on the stand as she talked about how she regrets not stopping by her daughter’s house on the morning of the murder.
“I thought I should just stop by and see her. I hadn’t before but I thought I should do that. But I didn’t do that. But if I had stopped…I’m sorry…”
She said she still picks up the phone to text her daughter and said she even started typing a message to her Tuesday morning before she remembered she will never see her daughter again.
“Thank God I still have those videos of her and I can hear it and I have that much left of her. But I’ll have a new video, I just have the same one over and over.”
Crisp showed the jury a selection of Brookes’ favorite photos of her daughter, including some of her and her daughter. Brookes said this has been even more of a nightmare for her granddaughter, who is now five years old.
“She over the years has seen a pregnant woman and she will stare at them. There’s been times she’ll walk up look at them and she’ll ask to see their bellies (to see) if they were cut or hurt or bleeding. I have a necklace I wear with a picture of her daddy and her mommy, where Reagan is wearing a red shirt. She doesn’t like it, so I keep it turned away from her because she thinks Mommy’s bleeding in the picture.”
Brookes says the little girl is “doing okay,” and that her father is making sure she’s taken care of.
“She has her moments. I don’t think any of us can know what’s going through her little head. Knowing what I saw and I can’t get it out of my head, and I’m an adult. For (Reagan’s daughter) to see what she saw, which we don’t know what all, I can’t imagine.”