It’s one of the most dreaded moments in parenthood; that moment when the sweet innocent child you’ve raised since birth turns into a teenager. Hormones, social anxiety, and those very natural growing pains can make the transition difficult for parent and child alike. Moms, dads and kids sometimes count down the years until it’s over. In the case of Nikki Reynolds, it came to end in May 1997 when she repeatedly stabbed her mother Billie Jean with a kitchen knife until she lay dead on the floor.
Born in 1979, Jacquiline Nicole Reynolds was three months old when her birth mother put her up for adoption. Fortunately, she was taken in by Robert and Billie Jean Reynolds, a deeply religious couple who did all they could to make their new daughter feel loved. “I didn’t even know I was adopted until I was old enough to start asking questions,” Nikki told Oxygen’s "Snapped." Robert worked for the Florida Department of Transportation, while Billie Jean was an administrative assistant with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Growing up in Coral Springs, Florida, Nikki says her childhood was like “a fairytale.” The Reynolds gave their little girl everything she wanted. Some friends thought they gave her too much. “She was never told ‘No,’” the Reynolds’ friend Merrill Martin told "Snapped." “She was a spoiled brat. There’s, there’s just no getting around that at all.”
Up through high school, Nikki got good grades, participated in afterschool programs, and was active at church. But as she entered her sophomore year of high school in 1995, she developed a new interest that didn’t sit well with her conservative parents. As Nikki told "Snapped," “I started to be more interested in boys.” One boy in particular: a 16-year-old classmate named Carlos Infante. “I was in American History class with him, and we started by just hanging out in that class getting to know each other and then one thing led to another,” she says.
Nikki and Carlos’ relationship was intense and emotional. In March of 1996, Nikki told her parents she had been raped on her way home from school. Her parents called the police but once they got there she began changing her story. First she said she was raped by someone she knew. Then she said her attacker was a stranger. Ultimately, she admitted she’d made the whole thing up because she thought she was pregnant. She and Carlos were having unprotected sex. Though it turned out she wasn’t actually pregnant, Robert and Billie Jean Reynolds were mortified their 16-year-old daughter was sexually active. “That was really upsetting to Billie,” family friend Patty Goertz told "Snapped."
Nikki says her first sexual relationship brought about a "whole new world of emotions that I was unaware of.” Going into junior year of high school, Nikki’s grades began to slip. She kept to herself, and obsessed over her boyfriend. “Everything revolved around Carlos,” she says. “I had pictures of him everywhere in my bedroom. Every waking minute had to do with Carlos.”
Billie Jean, on the other hand, thought Carlos was a bad influence and what Nikki needed was to spend more time at church. But the more her mother dragged her to church, the more they fought. After years of indulging Nikki’s every whim, her parents were saying “No” to their daughter’s desire to spend all her free time with her boyfriend. It didn’t go over well. Merrill Martin says Nikki would have tantrums and screaming fits.
Nikki soon began sneaking out of her house in the middle of the night to go see Carlos. Things had gotten so bad between mother and daughter that Billie Jean had told Patty Goertz, “Don’t be surprised one day if you come home and there’s police cars and fire trucks up and down the street. I don’t know if it’s going to be me or Nikki, but one of us is going to be gone.” They were prescient words.
On May 14, 1997, Billie Jean was called to Nikki’s school after she told a high school counselor she was pregnant. The counselor said Billie Jean, Robert and Nikki had to come in the following morning to discuss the matter. In the meantime, Billie Jean made Nikki take a pregnancy test, which came back negative. Furious with her daughter, she dragged her to church for an emergency counseling session. “The counselor started to raise her voice and tell me that my mom didn’t deserve this and it offended me,” Nikki told "Snapped." Later she apologized to her mother. Then they went home to have dinner.
At 7:07 p.m. that night Nikki called 911. “Do you have an emergency?,” the operator asked. “I just killed my mother,” she told them. When police arrived, Nikki was waiting on her front doorstep. “She had blood all over her, blood on her legs, blood on her face,” Coral Springs Police Detective Paul Ferm told "Snapped." Inside they found Billie Jean Reynolds bleeding profusely from 13 stab wounds. Despite her attack, Nikki prayed that her mother would live. “I remember seeing them bring her out on a stretcher with the IV attached to her,” she said. “I remember actually feeling a lot a hope.” But Billie Jean had lost too much blood. She was pronounced dead at 8:10 p.m.
Robert Reynolds had been at church when the murder happened. He arrived home to find a bloody crime scene, broke down and collapsed in the street. “He couldn’t believe that his wife was gone. And he couldn’t believe that his daughter did this,” Coral Springs Police Detective Cynthia Klee told "Snapped." He later told investigators, “I only asked two things of Nikki in all these years. I said, ‘I'd like you to keep your room clean and make the grades. . . . Dad and Mom will take care of everything else’,'” according to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper.
Down at the Coral Springs Police Department station house Nikki told police everything. “I had no intentions of lying. I didn’t have any, any secrets. I wanted to get it out,” she says. It started that day at school, when Nikki told Carlos she was pregnant after he said he wanted to break up with her. It was a strategy she had used before. After, Billie Jean got involved and forced Nikki to take a pregnancy test, the truth came out. At home she called Carlos to tell him there was no baby. “That’s when (Carlos) got all mad at me,” Nikki says. Carlos broke up with her. That was when she decided someone had to die.
First she tried to kill herself, swallowing an entire bottle of aspirin pills. At church that afternoon she thought she was going to die, but when her intended overdose appeared to have no effect, her thoughts went from suicide to homicide. “The thoughts started changing that if I get to school to Carlos the very next day then I can most likely kill him. If I couldn’t have him, no one could,” she said. However, she was worried that if her mother took her to meet with the guidance counselor the next morning as planned, they’d send her home from school and she’d lose the opportunity to “slit his throat.”
While washing the dishes after dinner that night a new plan emerged. Nikki decided, “If I kill my mom and then clean up the mess and wait till my dad gets home, then I’ll kill him. And then I’ll drive to school tomorrow. And then I’ll kill Carlos.” Nikki approached her mother from behind and tried to slit her throat with a large kitchen knife. It didn’t cut her skin, though, so Nikki started repeatedly stabbing her, saying, “I’m sorry I have to kill you because I can’t live without Carlos.” She says she couldn’t stop, even stabbing her as she lay motionless on the floor. According to Nikki, her mother forgave her before losing consciousness. “She said that she just wanted me to get help and that she did love me.”
Nikki says this act of absolution shocked her out of her murderous frenzy. “When I turned and saw her lying on the floor it just felt like a huge smack in the face of almost like an awakening of reality.” She immediately picked up the phone and called 911. After making a full confession, the effects of the aspirin kicked in and she began vomiting. After a brief trip to the emergency room she was booked into county jail.
19-year-old Nikki Reynolds’ trial for the murder of her mother began on April 14th, 1999. Her defense team argued she was innocent by reason of insanity. They even brought in Nikki’s birth mother, Katrina Ramos, who testified about her own history of mental illness and familial violence. Police and prosecutors weren’t buying it though. Neither was the jury. They found her guilty of second-degree murder. A judge sentenced her to the maximum 34 years in prison.
Following her conviction, an appellate court ruled Nikki’s sentencing guidelines were unconstitutional. In April 2001, she was re-sentenced to 21 years and eight months. According to the Sun-Sentinel, her attorney, Wayne Corry, had argued for the lighter sentence on the basis of her youth and her diagnosis of suffering from borderline personality disorders. Nikki became eligible for parole in 2015 and on September 18 of that year was released from prison. Her current whereabouts are unknown.