It took a jury an hour of deliberations to return their verdict in the case of a woman accused of murdering her friend to steal her unborn baby, the Texarkana Gazette reports.
Six men and six women who listened to 60 witnesses, saw numerous gruesome photos, and looked over horrific evidence for the last three weeks, found Taylor Rene Parker guilty of capital murder, says the Gazette.
Deliberations began at 10:22 a.m., and the jury returned at about 11:25 a.m. on Monday morning, the Gazette says, adding that Parker displayed no outward emotions while the jury read the verdict.
Defense attorney Jeff Harrelson told the court that Braxlynn Sage, the unborn baby of 21-year-old Renee Michelle Simmons-Hancock, wasn’t alive when she was ripped from the womb, wanting to dismiss the kidnapping charge that would turn capital murder into a murder charge, taking the death penalty off the table, the Gazette reports.
First Assistant Bowie County District Attorney Kelley Crisp reminded the court in closing statements that medical professionals testified that Braxlynn had a heartbeat when taken from her mother, the Gazette says.
“We have methodically laid out what she (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 said, according to the Gazette.
“Y’all decide the boundaries of today. What will we tolerate? Is it open season on expectant mothers? That was a live baby,” Crisp added.
Simmons-Hancock was seven and a half months pregnant when her killer stabbed her over 100 times, cut her open to steal her baby, and left her for dead in her New Boston, Texas home on October 9, 2020, People Magazine reported.
Unable to have anymore of her own children after a hysterectomy in 2015, and despite already being a mother of two, Parker allegedly created an elaborate scheme to fake a pregnancy in order to keep her boyfriend, Wade Griffin, who believed she was pregnant, NBC previously reported.
That is, Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards told the court, until Sept. 16, 2020, when Parker’s “performance” threatened to crumble in on her, the Gazette says.
“In the middle of a performance of a lifetime, with her fake pregnancy, her ex-husband sends an email to Wade Griffin that it’s all fake. 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. It was from that day forward, that Sept. 16 date, that she was in a frenzy to find a baby,” Richards said.
Parker allegedly spent the days leading up to Hancock’s murder lingering outside pregnancy stores and clinics, hunting for victims, (according to a TXK Today report) before setting her sights on Hancock, a friend for whom Parker had taken engagement and wedding photos, the Gazette reported previously.
Richards reminded the court of the “bloodletting that went on in that house” when Parker attacked Hancock, and how during the autopsy, the same scalpel use to cut Hancock open was found in her neck, the Gazette reports.
“The pain Reagan must have felt when Taylor started cutting her abdomen hip to hip … indescribable,” Richards said.
Richards added that after Parker removed the baby, she continued cutting and slashing Hancock in what was a slow death for the mother-to-be, the Gazette says.
“I guess Reagan would not die fast enough for Taylor to get out of there and get on with her plans,” Richards said.
Harrelson’s closing statement focused on whether or not Braxlynn was born alive, the Gazette says.
“That’s why in opening statements we spent so much time on definitions. You can’t kidnap a person who has not been born alive,” Harrelson said, calling the case “complicated” and “emotional”, according to the Gazette.
Oct. 12 will begin the punishment phase of the trial, during which the jury will hear testimony to decide whether Parker should receive the death penalty or life in prison, the Gazette says.