CONTENT WARNING: This report contains graphic details including autopsy testimony that some readers may find disturbing.
NEW BOSTON, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – Autopsy results show Reagan Hancock’s unborn baby was violently ripped from her womb during her murder, causing the baby’s death.
Taylor Parker was convicted on Oct. 3 by a Bowie County jury of capital murder in Reagan’s death and the kidnapping of Braxlynn Sage. Prosecutors say Parker brutally beat Reagan in her home on Oct. 9, 2020, and removed the 35-week pre-term baby girl from her belly through a crude c-section before the 21-year-old mother died.
According to prosecutors, Parker faked a pregnancy for 10 months before committing the murder and kidnapping in an attempt to produce a baby and keep her boyfriend from leaving her.
Now the jury is hearing testimony in the sentencing phase of the trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Parker’s defense team is asking for life in prison.
On the stand Thursday, Idabel Police Department Det. Johnny Voss had to pause to gather himself as he described his confusion and anger at seeing what appeared to be a healthy baby dying in the maternity ward at the hospital after he was called there as police were still trying to figure out what was going on with the woman who had been brought in from a traffic stop on the side of the road with an unresponsive baby.
Voss recalled the nurse crying as she lett him into the locked ward to see the baby andshowed him to the room where the baby was hooked up to machines that were barely keeping her alive. He saw a faint heartbeat on the monitor.
“It’d beep, and then it’d flatline, and it’d beep.”
It did not make sense to Voss.
“She looked like she should be okay,“ Richards said to Voss on the stand. “She looked like a little baby girl. I have little girls, and she looked just like they did when they were born. That’s why I didn’t understand.“
So he asked the nurse, who was holding the baby’s hand.
“I said, ‘If this baby’s still alive? Why are we here? Why is this baby not being flown to another hospital?’ and the nurse told him the doctors had determined she was not viable and would not survive the flight.
“I was a little angry, and I asked, “‘What are we supposed to do?'” and she said, ‘Nothing,'” Voss recalled, choking up. “Sorry.”
Voss testified that he had to leave the room.
“I’m not staying here for this,” he recalled saying.
Later, he got word that baby Braxlynn had died. The nurse stayed with her so she did not die alone.
Prosecutors showed the jury a photo of the baby laid out on the table, still intubated and with wires attached. Sniffles could be heard in the otherwise quiet courtroom.
Dr. Christopher Mason, who was Parker‘s OB/GYN and also her boss when she worked at the Northeast Texas Women’s Clinic for about a year, was recalled to the stand Thursday and testified that, at 35 weeks, baby Braxlynn was preterm but would have been born perfectly healthy under normal circumstances.
Mason also testified about the kind of blood loss that occurs even during a normal, controlled cesarean section and that too much blood loss would affect the baby’s oxygen levels.
Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards recalled testimony from Reagan’s autopsy earlier in the trial that showed her uterus had been cut from the back and asked Mason how that compared to where the uterus would be cut during a proper C-section.
“We make the incision on front side of the uterus, very low usually,” and sometimes on the top, he added. “But with a 35-week pregnant uterus, that uterus is all the way into the diaphragm so it would be very, very brutal to pull that uterus out. You’d have to remove the uterus forcefully. I don’t know how it’s done. It would be very very difficult if the mom was awake during this time, to be able to pull the uterus out with the baby still in it – I mean – I – “ the doctor trailed off, seemingly unable to finish the thought.
On cross-examination, Parker’s defense co-counsel Mac Cobb asked Mason whether he noticed any changes in Parker during her time at the clinic. Mason said he did not. Cobb went on to ask about Parker‘s medical care as a patient at the clinic and whether the endometriosis, ectopic pregnancy, and hysterectomy she had would have been traumatic to her.
Mason explained that endometriosis is indeed very painful and that surgery for that and for a tubal pregnancy can be traumatic for some patients.
Returning for redirect, Richards brought up the tranquilizer found in Parker‘s purse on the day of the murder. He said the tranquilizer is essentially a sedative anesthetic used to knock animals out and is not for human use.
“Administering that would’ve been a lot more humane than what she did,“ Richards said.
Parker’s defense team objected to that statement but Judge John Tidwell overruled and allowed the doctor to answer.
“Yes, if she was sedated like if we were using anesthetic for the procedure, it would have been a lot more humane procedure.“
Baby Braxlynn’s autopsy revealed bruises on her scalp and on the umbilical cord, but no cuts were visible on her body. Dallas Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Hastings believes the bruise on the top of Braxlynn’s head could have been caused by her mother being punched or kicked in the belly. The trauma to the umbilical cord indicated it might have been pulled or squeezed.
As jurors viewed photos of the placenta, which was also recovered from the car after the traffic stop, Hastings explained that its condition indicated it had been violently removed from Reagan’s body.
“The placenta is disrupted as if it had been torn out of the body.“
Embedded in the placenta were fragments of a press-on fingernail decorated with purple paint and glitter.
Richard asked Hastings whether finding these fingernail fragments here would be consistent with the mother being alive during the forced extraction.
“Yes, it would. These are the fingernails from the mother, so the mother’s fingernail is broken off in her own placenta inside her own body. It’s hard for me to imagine another scenario where her fingernails would end up in her own placenta if she weren’t putting her fingernails in – alive – to essentially protect herself and keep her baby from being extracted.”
Strands of hair and pieces of what appeared to be grass were also found embedded in the placenta. No explanation was offered during Thursday’s testimony for where the grass came from or whose hair it was.
Hastings went on to explain that the disruption of blood flow would be detrimental to a fetus.
“Like if the mother has perhaps over 100 blunt force injuries,“ Hastings said, adding that if she is hypotensive and unable to provide blood flow, the fetus will die because it is dependent on the mother for survival.“
Hastings determined that baby Braxlynn died as a result of traumatic extraction from her mother’s uterus and ruled the manner of the baby’s death a homicide.
“There’s no reason for this child not to be born alive and healthy,” Hastings said. “The mother was a victim of numerous blunt and sharp force injuries.”
Hastings said he had difficulties doing the paperwork to complete her death certificate because the birth certificate is required, and that requires a whole different set of paperwork.
“You have to know if the baby was born alive or stillborn. You have to know that in order to fill out the forms correctly and come up with the proper cause of death.“
Because she had a heartbeat at the hospital, Hastings determined that she was born alive.
Baby Braxlynn weighed 6.68 pounds and was just under 21 inches long. She had curly blonde hair.
The supervisor of the jail’s medical staff took the stand Thursday afternoon and talked about Parker’s medical calls and visits to the hospital that started soon after her arrival at the jail.
Kelly Gilchrist said Parker has been the most frequent visitor to sick call she has ever seen, and one of the most difficult.
“It’s been quite challenging. Sometimes, we have to go down the rabbit holes to find information on her, and sometimes at the end of that rabbit hole we do not find anything.“
In addition to sick calls at the jail, Gilchrist said Parker has been taken to Wadley Regional Medical Center at least ten times after complaining of a variety of symptoms, from tightness in her chest and shortness of breath to vomiting blood and a bleeding ulcer. Every time, Gilchrist said Parker she received a full battery of tests that all came back showing no medical issues.
After one of those hospital visits, Parker claimed the doctor refused to treat her because of her crime. Gilchrist said none of that happened and that medical records show nothing was found.
First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp noted those trips to the hospital and the two guards required to stay with her 24/7 come at a cost to Bowie County taxpayers.
Parker also continued to claim a history of multiple sclerosis, stroke, and pulmonary embolisms, as well as a rare blood clotting disorder that her doctor said she does not have.
After claiming to have fallen and hurt herself at the jail, Parker took another trip to the ER at Wadley. She was discharged and sent back to the jail after no evidence of an injury was found, although she claimed to have trouble walking. Medical records from that visit include a note from the physical therapist indicating Parker‘s symptoms might have been exaggerated or embellished.
In another visit to the hospital, medical staff suspected she was intentionally breathing shallowly in an attempt to skew her respiration and oxygen levels.
Gilchrist also recounted how Parker repeatedly indicated on medical forms that she did not have a history of sexual abuse, although she marked “yes“ on a question asking whether she felt she was at risk for sexual abuse or assault in the jail. But three months later, Parker demanded access to mental health counseling and claimed for the first time that she did have a history that included sexual abuse.
Parker had previously refused any mental health counseling after a nurse referred her following the incident in which she was suspected of faking her inability to walk properly. Gilchrist testified that Parker also reported in April 2022 that she was hearing voices. She was placed on medication for it, and Parker has not reported hearing the voices since.
“It seems to have resolved itself.”
Parker was reportedly abusive and aggressive toward the jail medical staff, Gilchrist said, recounting an incident in which she reminded the corrections officers escorting her to her weekly therapy session that she needed to be handcuffed from behind per jail policy.
“And she got mad and kicked the door and said, “‘I’m not putting up with this ****,‘“ and left.
In another incident, Gilchrist heard Parker tell a male inmate waiting outside the medical exam room who had just complemented her looks, “You obviously don’t know who I am and what I’m capable of.“
Gilchrist says Parker filed a false complaint against a nurse at the jail, claiming she did not get her medicine.
“Fake complaints are very difficult for a nurse. When a nurse gets turned over to the board, they are automatically guilty. They have to prove their innocence,” Gilchrist testified.
After that incident, Gilchrist says jail policy was changed once again to require that two nurses be in the room at all times when dealing with Parker. Jail policy also had to be adjusted to require Parker go to an alternate medical zone in the facility so that the route she and the dealers escorting her would have to take would not go through the area of the jail where she could come in contact with male inmates and trustees.
Gilchrist said Parker was known to refuse sick calls after this policy change because she was unhappy about not being able to see the other inmates on her way to see the nurse.
According to Thursday’s testimony, Parker tried to use her attorneys to get the lights turned off in her jail cell. Prosecutors showed the jury a letter Parker’s attorney wrote to the warden, claiming her neurologist was worried about her being in a cell with constant lights on and antagonizing her seizures.
“The lighting situation is not merely an annoyance to Ms. Parker, but is detrimental to her health,” attorney Jeff Harrelson wrote in the letter. “I have discussed this matter with Judge Tidwell and he suggested I discuss the matter with you.“
Parker‘s medical records, however, show that she self-reported seizures on two occasions, which were believed to be caused by reactions to medication and had nothing to do with the lights. Besides that, Gilchrist says the lighting in the jail is necessary for security reasons,
“Would it be possible to turn out all the lights at the jail?“ Crisp asked Gilchrist.
“It would be impossible and it would be dangerous,” Gilchrist responded.
The request resulted in what Crisp described as a “full-blown investigation” into whether Parker was having seizures because of the lights.
“Our provider has reviewed her chart extensively and has not found anywhere that she has been diagnosed with seizures,“ nurse practitioner Karen Ashley wrote in response to Harrelson‘s request, noting “that the lights cannot be turned off in segregated cells due to the need to be able to see the patient at all times and so that security can do their visual checks on the inmates.” Ashley also noted that Parker had been refusing her medication and claiming her family could not afford them.
On a cross examination, Cobb asked Gilchrist what medical diagnoses Parker had reported were true. Gilchrist confirmed blood pressure and a thyroid issue that had been discovered since her arrival at the jail for which she is taking medication. Parker is also on Eliquis for the prevention of blood clots and takes Excedrin twice a day “because she complains of headaches.”
Cobb pressed Gilchrist on that, asking if she was aware of Parker‘s diagnosis of complicated migraine, and whether she believed Parker was making up, imagining, or exaggerating her illnesses.
She responded that it is noted in her medical records that Parker complains of migraines, emphasizing the word, “complains.”
“It is not our job, when any inmate comes into medical. That is subjective. You have to take that inmate’s word for it and treat it accordingly.”
Cobb also questioned whether it would be unusual for someone to avoid talking about having been sexually assaulted.
“Most people, mostly women, they’re pretty forthcoming with it. They may be quiet about it but they want medical attention,” Gilchrist said.
Cobb asked whether there were some people that would report sexual assault that did not take place. Gilchrist confirmed that it does happen. Cobb suggested that it might therefore be difficult to know whether someone is being honest about being sexually abused.
“Somebody that has been truly sexually assaulted, that is condescending, because that is a violent crime that has happened. It would have been very traumatic, mentally, physically, emotionally.“
“So people might repress the memory.“
“Yes, there are people who have repressed, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t talked about it.”
In other testimony Thursday, jurors heard from more corrections officers, who detailed their interactions with Parker. One of the jailers was the target of a bogus grievance filed by Parker after the jailer denied her dayroom time after being out all night against jail policy. Parker accused corrections officer Amber Monk of threatening to cut her throat and using a racial slur.
“I don’t talk like that,“ Monk testified. “It made me upset because I’ve never had an inmate put a grievance on me.“
Up until that point, Monk says she never had any problems with Parker, who had even bragged to her that a Netflix deal was in the works to tell her story up through the conclusion of the trial and asked her who was going to play her in the documentary.
But Monk said she believes Parker did not try to ask her to do or allow things that would violate jail policy because Parker can spot the difference between a “weak“ jailer and a “strong” one.
Parker has been known to threaten other officers with grievances and legal action. It was that reputation, and fear of finding themselves the subject of a grievance investigation threatening their jobs and income, the prosecutor say motivated some jailers to let Parker get away with passing all the notes, being out of her cell more than she should have been, and having contraband.
Prohibited items found in Parker‘s cell include mascara, a razor, a teddy bear, a ring, an extra mat, and a sheet from the annex of the jail complex, which is across the street in a separate building.
Inmates are provided razors, but they are supposed to give them back immediately after using them, and corrections officer McKenzie Nichols said the one found in Parker’s cell was not a standard-issue razor. There was no good also explanation for the extra mat and the sheet, either.
“Who controls what goes into the cells?” Harrelson asked Nichols. “She can’t run down to the mat store and buy another mat, can she? The sheet from the annex, Taylor Parker didn’t run across the street and grab one?“
Nicholls agreed that she did not.
“Is it against the rules?”
“We don’t have sheets at the Bi-State,“ Nichols responded.
None of the jailers or the supervisor who also took the stand Thursday was able to say for sure how she got these items. Parker had claimed that she had permission from Capt. Nathaniel Johnson to have the items because she had been there so long.
Johnson later testified that he never gave that permission and that she was also not authorized to have the ring that she had been wearing to court before it was confiscated from her cell. He said inmates are not allowed to wear or even possess jewelry unless they were married before they came into the jail because such items can be used for trafficking and trading.
“If they don’t come in with it, it doesn’t belong to them and they got it from other means,” Johnson explained.
As for the teddy bear that was also confiscated from Parker’s cell in February, Johnson said it there was only one way it could have gotten into the jail.
“It had to have been brought in by one of the staff or somebody that was weak-minded.”
The teddy bear was confiscated and placed in the property room.
Harrelson also asked Johnson to confirm that there is no evidence that Parker ever used the contraband razor found in her cell to assault anyone.
In one of the more meta moments of the trial, prosecutors played video Thursday afternoon of Parker out in the dayroom of her segregated jail pod watching coverage of her trial on KTAL News at 10 from the day video from her traffic stop was played in court. It was well past the time of day when Parker should have been out.
“I’m supposed to be on TV tonight,“ Parker reportedly told Nichols, who was working that night and testified that they were busy and let it slide.
“That something that you allowed,“ Harrelson asked Nicholson on cross-examination.
Besides showing Parker’s apparent fascination with coverage of her trial, prosecutors point to this is one of the examples of how she has had far more freedom than someone who is supposed to be in solitary confinement and only allowed out of their cell for an hour a day.
Harrelson asked Johnson, who was Nichols’ supervisor, about Parker‘s late night out to watch herself on the news, noting that Nichols was seen coming in and out of the dayroom at least three times in the hour-long jail surveillance video.
During that time, Parker appeared happy and could be seen having animated conversations with someone off camera, likely chatting with a jailer through the door. The other inmates in the pod remained in their cells, watching her through the windows of their doors.
Parker had been sitting throughout most of the hour until the news came on. She stood up and watched raptly. Shortly after the update on her trial ended, at 10:06 p.m., she returned to her cell.
“At any point, did Ms. Nichols or was there anybody who could’ve said, ‘Parker, get in your cell?’” Harrison asked Johnson.
“So if she’s out more than the hour-long period, that’s something to jail or could have said something about,” Harrelson concluded.
Not only has Parker been allowed out of her cell inside her segregated pod more often than her solitary confinement allows, she has also managed to get at least one inmate from the general population of the jail into the pod to visit.
Richards showed the jury a still photo taken from the security camera in the pod showing another female inmate sitting at the table in the dayroom braiding Parker’s hair on Aug. 7. Richards noted that this was during jury selection and that the unauthorized inmate was serving time for sexual assault of a child.
The corrections officer that moved that inmate into the segregated pod was disciplined, but Parker was not.
On the stand, Johnson said they are short-staffed and that if they spent all their time writing inmates up, there would be no time to watch the inmates. In fact, Johnson confirmed Parker has never been disciplined for anything. He said there is not much else to take away from Parker besides commissary and visitation time, and she never has visitors.
Parker may not have been disciplined but she was ordered to move back into her assigned cell after she took it upon herself to take another cell in March 2022. Parker filed a grievance, explaining that she took it after the previous inmate got out, and she wanted to stay there.
“RO1D it’s a smaller cell – I’m able to see the TV – it only has one light which helps w/my migraines on a daily basis. I was approached by CO (who) told captain said we have to move back to RO1C – I’m requesting to be permanently housed in RO1D.”
The jail lieutenant told Parker she was advised not to switch rooms.
“You were given a direct order to not switch rooms. You disobeyed orders. This is a non-grievable matter.“
CO Nichols also testified Thursday that Parker told her the ID Channel was filming her in the courtroom daily and that they were going to make a movie about her. She said that Parker seemed to think that she was “really popular” and claimed she had a hair and makeup team.
“In all the time you’ve been there, has she ever shown remorse and shown that she was sorry for the family?“ Crisp asked Nichols.
Kristina Brooks Keaton worked at the jail for about a year. It was the 20-year-old’s first correctional officer job. She testified Tuesday that Parker was “fine as long as she got what she wanted.”
“If you see Taylor Parker in the jail, you’d never know that’s what she was in for,” Keaton said.
“She’d be sweet, nice.”
Keaton told Crisp it was like she was on vacation and she was just headed home. But if something happened, Keaton said Parker would get angry and “go off,” cussing, yelling, saying derogatory things, and threatening that she would have their jobs.
“I wasn’t scared of her,” Keaton said of their interactions. “Not like friendly, but just casual. But someone who didn’t interact with her on a daily basis, I’m sure they would be pretty scared.“
Keaton said Parker could have a “scary stare” if someone asked her about something she did not like or about her charge.
“She just went completely blank. It looks like a light turned off in her head and she just became mean. It wasn’t acting out, but you could see her entire demeanor had changed.”
Keaton said Parker also got “into it” with some of the trustees.
“We’ve had lots of incidents where she’d get angry with a trustee.”
Parker did not tell Keaton she was a syrup or salt heiress, or that her father had won a large amount of money in a lawsuit, like she told many others. But she did tell Keaton that she was not going to get the death penalty and that she expected to go free.
And when she did, she said she was going to get a hairless cat.
“She’s very cocky, thinks she has everything under control and she knows what’s gonna happen, that she’s gonna get away with doing what she did.”
Keaton testified that Parker was “telling everybody how it was gonna go her way. She likes to be the center of attention and put on a show.”
Keaten says Parker handed her a manilla envelope one time with what she said was a manuscript for her memoir. She wanted Keaton to make copies and told her that her mother was going to send it out to be published.
Keaton says she read a few lines, put it back in the envelope, and brought it back to her “because I didn’t wanna do it.”
Keaton said the few lines she read were about how Parker felt sorry for Reagan and the baby and how she missed her boyfriend and how she did not understand how everybody could think she could do what she was accused of doing. Somebody was responsible, Keaton says the manuscript read, and Parker wished everybody knew the truth.
“I don’t believe Taylor Parker has the capability of feeling sorry.”