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A woman accused of brutally murdering her pregnant friend and stealing her unborn baby has been convicted of capital murder.
Taylor Rene Parker, 29, was found guilty of killing expectant mother Reagan Michelle Hancock, 21, and cutting her unborn daughter out of the victim’s womb in 2020. On Monday, Oct. 4, after about an hour of deliberations, a Bowie County jury in Texas found Parker guilty of capital murder and kidnapping, according to the Texarkana Gazette.
The verdict comes at the end of a three-week trial outlining the graphic details of Hancock’s murder. Hancock was eight months pregnant with her daughter, Braxlynn Sage Hancock, who did not survive the attack.
Parker will return to court on Oct. 12 for sentencing, where a judge will determine if she will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole or be sentenced to death, according to CBS Shreveport, Louisiana affiliate KSLA.
Hancock’s aunt, Jamie Mason, spoke after the verdict was delivered, stating they’d hoped for the latter outcome, according to the CBS affiliate.
“In my opinion, she deserves death, the same thing she done to my niece and the baby girl,” Mason said on Oct. 4. “That’s my opinion. People may look at it bad, but a life or a life, for me.”
Prosecutors and investigators say Parker spent nearly 10 months pretending to be pregnant in a desperate attempt to make her then-boyfriend, Wade Griffin, stay in a romantic relationship with her. Parker went as far as to fake ultrasounds, throw a gender reveal party and allegedly offered $100,000 to women who could potentially act as surrogate mothers. She also purchased a baby-bump suit to keep up with appearances.
Wade Griffin testified on Thursday that Parker told him she was pregnant with his twins after dating for only about two to three weeks, according to NBC Shreveport affiliate KTAL-TV. However, Griffin was seemingly unaware that Parker underwent a hysterectomy back in 2015, leaving her unable to bear more children.
So when Parker’s Sept. 19, 2020, due date came and went, prosecutors say she grew desperate. By then, Griffin had taken medical leave from his job in anticipation of the new baby, claiming he and Parker made plans for Parker to be induced into labor three weeks later, according to KTAL-TV.
Labor induction is commonly recommended when a mother carries one to two weeks past her due date to reduce the risk of uterine infection and other complications.
“I didn’t know nothing about that because I never had a kid,” Griffin testified at the trial. “And didn’t know how all that stuff worked.”
Bowie County Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards referred to Parker as an actress convincing enough to make “reasonable people start to doubt their own sanity,” according to the Texarkana Gazette.
“In the middle of a performance of a lifetime, with her fake pregnancy, her ex-husband sends an e-mail to Wade Griffin that it’s all fake,” said Richards during her closing arguments. “To Taylor, it was a threat that she would be outed as a liar and exposed for what she is. She would lose face, and Taylor Parker doesn’t lose.”
Bowie County First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp said Parker “had an answer for everything.”
On Oct. 9, 2020 – the same day Griffin planned to meet Parker at the hospital to be purportedly induced into labor — Parker showed up at Reagan Hancock’s New Boston, Texas, home, not far from the Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas state borders. Hancock’s 3-year-old daughter was also at the residence when Parker brutally beat and stabbed Hancock to death.
According to testimony by Dallas County Medical Examiner Dr. Melinda Flores, the victim sustained more than 100 stab and slash wounds, believed to be formed by the scalpel lodged in the deceased victim’s neck. A hammer was also used in the attack, which took place across several rooms of Hancock’s home, and included blows to the victim’s face and skull.
Hancock was sliced from hipbone to hipbone, and defensive wounds, including a dislocated finger and a nearly severed digit, indicated the violence behind the attack.
Shonnnaree Yeager, one of Parker’s previous jail cellmates, would later testify that Parker detailed the gruesome murder, allegedly admitting she tried cutting the infant out with a knife before grabbing a scalpel from a medical kit in her car, according to KTAL-TV.
Parker allegedly claimed she took the baby from the womb and brought it to her dead mother’s cheek, saying, “Tell mama bye,” per Yeager’s testimony.
Around the time Hancock’s mother discovered her daughter’s dead body, a Texas trooper pulled Parker over on a DeKalb road at around 9:30 a.m. On her lap was a newborn baby, which Parker claimed was her own.
Prosecutors said Parker “stuffed Reagan’s placenta down her pants to make it look like she had given birth on the side of the road.”
Following Parker and the newborn being transferred to the hospital in nearby Idabel, Oklahoma, medical personnel found Parker’s story suspicious, especially after she initially refused a postpartum examination, which would have conclusively determined whether she’d given birth.
A later examination revealed Parker did not have a uterus, nor did examiners find the presence of blood in her vaginal canal, as would have been the case following a vaginal birth. A subsequent blood test found no hCG hormones in Parker’s system, which would have been present if she was actually pregnant.
DNA tests later confirmed the newborn — whose gestational age was 34 weeks — was Hancock’s daughter.
Much of Monday’s closing arguments centered around whether or not Braxlynn Sage was alive when taken from her mother’s womb, according to the Texarkana Gazette. Parker’s defense attorney, Jeff Harrelson, argued Braxlynn never took her first breath, which would have worked in Parker’s favor, taking the kidnapping charge off the table and reducing a capital murder charge to murder only.
“You can’t kidnap a person who has not been born alive,” said Harrelson.
ADA Kelley Crisp, on the other hand, pointed to several medical experts who testified that the newborn had, in fact, had a heartbeat when ripped from her mother’s body, as pointed out in Monday’s closing statements.
“We have methodically laid out what [Parker] did, why she did it, all the moving parts and all the collateral damage. The best evidence the state of Texas has that baby was born alive is that Taylor Parker said it wasn’t,” Crisp stated. “Y’all decide the boundaries of today. What will we tolerate? Is it open season on expectant mothers? That was a live baby.”
Parker, who previously pleaded not guilty, expressed no emotion as Judge John Tidwell read the guilty verdict aloud.
“I know sentencing doesn’t start until Oct. 12,” said Hancock’s aunt, Jamie Mason, according to KSLA. “Just pray for the family because it is still [a] hard time until we know for sure what she is going to get.”
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in Parker’s case.
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