NEW BOSTON, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – After 12 days of testimony from 66 witnesses, closing arguments are expected to get underway on Monday in the Taylor Parker capital murder trial.
Parker, who was 27 at the time of the Oct. 9, 2020 murders, is 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. 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.
Over the course of the third week of the trial at the Bowie County Courthouse, jurors got a detailed look at the crime scene and autopsy report and how Parker’s cell phone and online activity lined up with her movements in the months and days leading up to the murder.
The jury heard testimony from the doctor who confirmed Parker had not given birth and saw photos of Parker’s bloodied hands and feet on the day of her arrest.
They also heard Parker’s explanations to police about what happened and heard testimony about DNA evidence that indicated none of the blood samples taken at the scene or from items in her car contained her DNA, but it did match up with Reagan Hancock and her baby, Braxlynn.
By the end of week 3, the jury also heard from Parker’s ex-boyfriend, Wade Griffin, as well as a former fellow inmate of Parker’s, who testified to details she says Parker told her about how she cut the baby out of Reagan’s belly and what she did after.
Here is a breakdown of testimony, day by day:
Taylor Parker trial, Day 9:
On Monday, jurors viewed detailed photographs of Parker’s bruised body and bloodied hands following her arrest on the day of the murder. They also heard from two of the nurses who tried to check Parker for post-labor bleeding at the hospital but could not find her uterus and the doctor who did the vaginal exam and confirmed she had not just given birth.
McCurtain County obstetrician Dr. William Herron also testified that baby Braxlynn was viable at 35 weeks gestation and 7 lbs. Parker’s defense team questioned whether the baby was alive when she was taken, as they have with paramedics that have previously taken the stand during the trial. Those paramedics testified that they were able to get the baby’s pulse back while on the way to the hospital, and prosecutors have pointed out that happened at least 45 minutes after she was cut from Hancock’s womb.
Herron also testified that the kind of pain a person would suffer during a cesarean section without anesthetic would be excruciating.
Most of Monday’s testimony was taken up by an expert in call detail records and geolocation analysis who said Parker’s travels and search activity intensified in the three weeks leading up to the murders, in what prosecutors say shows a clear pattern of planning and intent.
Det. Kevin Burkleo said he believes Parker did a “trial run” the day before the murders. He said cell phone location data shows Parker was at the victim’s home the night before and again early the next morning. All of that information helped establish a very clear timeline. He says the murders occurred between 7:52 a.m. at 9:14 a.m. on Oct. 9, and Parker was there.
He also testified that both Parker’s primary phone and her burner phone moved away from the scene of the crime on Austin St. around 9:14 a.m., along with Reagan’s phone. That phone has never been recovered.
Taylor Parker trial, Day 10:
On Tuesday, an expert in crime scene reconstruction testified that what he saw at the scene of Hancock’s murder indicates she was beaten and stabbed in four or five areas of the home before she bled out on the living room floor.
Texarkana Texas Police Department crime scene investigator Marc Sillivan walked the jury through photos from the crime scene, testifying that Hancock’s death was not quick and that she fought hard for her life.
Dallas County Medical Examiner Dr. Melinda Flores also testified for more than two hours Tuesday afternoon about her autopsy findings, detailing the extensive cuts, scrapes, bruises, and blunt force trauma Hancock suffered in the attack. Hancock was slashed and stabbed well over 100 times, with 39 of them on her scalp alone. There were also multiple slashes around her neck.
In addition to a broken nose, Hancock suffered five skull fractures, indicating at least five separate blows. Flores pointed to fractures that showed where Hancock was hit with what was likely the claw of a hammer as well as the blunt end, in addition to fractures consistent with the bottom of a mason jar full of sand found at the scene.
A scalpel blade used in the attack was found buried in her neck.
The medical examiner says Hancock died as a result of sharp force injuries and blunt force injuries but concluded that they could not rule out the possibility that ligature strangulation contributed to her death. Flores testified that there were too many deep incisions around the victim’s neck to be sure. The manner of death was ruled a homicide.
The Texas Ranger who searched Taylor Parker’s car and home also took the stand Tuesday and testified that he found a loaded gun in the passenger seat, but none of the weapons believed to have been used in the slaying.
Taylor Parker trial, Day 11:
On Wednesday, jurors heard for the first time from Taylor Parker herself as they watched videos of Parker’s interviews with police. In those interviews, Parker claimed Reagan was badly hurt when they got into a violent physical confrontation and that Reagan begged her to take the baby because she was afraid she was dying.
In one version of events, Parker even claimed Hancock grabbed the scalpel herself.
Texas Ranger Josh Mason testified that he did not find Parker’s claims believable and that she told “wildly different stories” over the course of five hours in two separate interviews.
During those interviews, Parker denied taking Hancock’s cell phone from the house and disposing of it, along with other items police say they never found. Those items include the fake baby belly and the shirt and sandals Parker was seen wearing in surveillance video at the EZ Mart just a couple of hours before the murder.
Earlier Wednesday, Hancock’s OB-GYN took the stand and testified that Hancock was about eight months along and that the pregnancy was progressing normally at the time of her death. Dr. James Scales told the jury that there were no signs of anything wrong with the baby.
Dr. Scales testified that he was surprised to learn that Hancock’s baby did not suffer any physical injuries, considering the crude nature of the c-section.
In other testimony Wednesday, crime lab analysis showed that most of the DNA testing on samples taken from the crime scene and Parker’s car came from Reagan Hancock and her baby and that none of the DNA in the blood samples matched Parker.
Taylor Parker trial, Day 12:
On Thursday, Parker’s ex-boyfriend Wade Griffin testified about how she had him convinced she was pregnant for more than ten months before she was arrested on the afternoon of the murders.
Jurors on Thursday also watched Parker’s first interview with police while she was still in the hospital just before she was arrested. Her version of what happened on the morning of the murder was different from what she later told investigators in follow-up interviews.
In her hospital bed interview, Parker initially denied knowing anything about a woman found dead with her baby cut out and insisted the baby was hers. But during the course of the interview, captured on police body cameras, jurors saw Parker learn the doctor confirmed she had not just given birth and eventually tell Oklahoma OSI Special Agent Chad Dansby that Hancock called her a liar about her pregnancy and started a physical fight.
During that fight, Parker claimed Hancock threatened to kill her. She said Hancock fell on a knife, injured herself, and told Parker police would believe she did it. Parker also told Dansby in that interview that Reagan hit her head and was bleeding from the knife wound when she began “pushing” as if she wanted the baby out and then told Parker to take the baby.
Parker would not use Hancock’s name during that interview, instead only referring to her as “Boo.”
Earlier in the morning, jurors heard from a woman who was incarcerated at the Bi-State Jail with Parker in December 2020, two months after Parker’s arrests. Shonnaree Yeager testified that Parker told her how she initially tried to use a knife in Hancock’s home on the morning of the murders to cut the baby out but found that it was not working the way she wanted to. Yeager testified that Parker told her she went out to her car to get the scalpel blade she kept in a medical kit in her purse to finish the job.
Parker allegedly told Yeager that she placed the baby up against Reagan’s cheek and told the baby, “Tell Momma bye.”
As soon as testimony wrapped up for the day Thursday, Parker’s defense attorney asked the judge to throw the charges out, arguing the state failed to prove the baby was actually “born” and therefore a “person” as defined by Texas law.
The judge denied that motion.
If the jury finds Parker guilty of capital murder in Hancock’s death, the trial will enter a second phase including 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 trial is expected to begin in mid-October.