NEW BOSTON, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – A jury in Bowie County has found Taylor Parker guilty 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 one hour of deliberation, the jury of six men and six women returned with the unanimous verdict.
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’s defense attorney urged the jury to make their decision considering the definition of a person in Texas law regarding kidnapping.
Parker showed little reaction as the verdict was read, according to our sister station, who was in the courtroom. 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 Richardson told the jury. “She’s a liar, a manipulator and now she’s gonna be held accountable for it.”
Richardson said they proved Parker’s motive and intent, pointing to the timeline they laid out showing Parker’s search for a way to “prove everyone wrong” intensified after her boyfriend got a warning on Sept. 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 said 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. The motive here is to maintain and keep the relationship with Wade at any cost. She felt so strongly about that motive that she murdered Reagan.”Lauren Richardson, Assistant District Attorney
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 argued, telling the jury that means the State has not proven the elements of the case that raise it to the level of capital murder because the baby was not “born,” and suggesting she might not have been alive.
If they find Parker not guilty of capital murder based on those definitions or have a reasonable doubt, Harrelson said they should acquit and find her guilty of murder, urging the jury to “apply the law given to you by the judge, 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.
“She absolutely abducted Braxlynn,” Crisp said. “She wanted to take her home and pretend she was hers.”
“Do you know who decides whether a baby is alive? You. Y’all decide the boundary. Is it open season on pregnant mothers because we’re gonna say those aren’t kids,” Crisp said.
“Y’all tell her. Obviously, Reagan’s life had no value. 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,” Crisp said. “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.”
The case went to the jury for deliberation at about 10:25 a.m.
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.
The courtroom filled up quickly Monday morning before the jury was brought in, with Hancock’s parents and extended family in attendance.
Both sides rested on Thursday after jurors heard from Parker’s ex-boyfriend, Wade Griffin, and from the Oklahoma OSI Special Investigator who interviewed Parker in her hospital bed shortly before her arrest.
After testimony finished, Parker’s defense team immediately moved for a directed verdict, essentially asking the judge to throw out the capital murder charge against her. They argued that a fetus that has not been born is not a person under Texas law and therefore cannot be kidnapped.
Judge John Tidwell denied that request and the defense rested its case without bringing a single witness.
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 since her conviction. That phase of the trial is expected to begin Oct. 12 and it is expected to last two to three weeks.