A jury deliberated for roughly an hour and fifteen minutes on Nov. 9, 2022, before reaching a verdict which sentenced Taylor Rene Parker to the death penalty for the murder of her friend and stealing the unborn baby from the woman’s womb, according to the Texarkana Gazette.
Reagan Michelle Hancock was seven and a half months pregnant when Parker stabbed her over 100 times, cut her open to stal the baby, and left her for dead in her New Boston, Texas home on October 9, 2020, People Magazine reported.
The same jury deliberated for an hour on Oct. 3, 2022 before finding Parker guilty of capital murder, the Texarkana Gazette says.
Judge John Tidwell confirmed the jurors said “yes” to the first special issue, which told the jury to determine the probability of the defendant committing future acts of violence that would make her a continuing threat to society, the Gazette says.
The second special issue, to which the jury answered “no”, told the jury to consider all evidence, including the defendant’s character, background, and moral culpability to determine whether circumstances call for issuing a sentence of life imprisonment instead of the death penalty, the Gazette says.
“You have been found guilty of capital murder and punished by Texas law to death. I formally sentence you to death,” Tidwell announced, according to the Gazette.
“You need to understand what you took”
Victim impact statements accompanied the closing statements after a month-long trial of emotional and gruesome evidence revealing Parker’s web of lies in faking a pregnancy for ten months before violently murdering Hancock, who was her friend, the Gazette says.
“It's been a heavy burden, and I'm going to turn it over to you. She's going to send herself to death row,” First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp told jurors, according to the Gazette, adding that this wasn’t “the case of a lifetime. It’s the case of ten lifetimes.”
Emily Simmons, Hancock’s younger sister, read out her victim impact statement to the court, the Gazette says.
“My only biological sister. You need to understand what you took from me and my family. No more celebrating her birthday. I was barely 19 when I got the call my sister was gone,” Simmons read out while crying, the Gazette says.
Simmons explained that she is engaged to be married, and instead of having Hancock there as her maid of honor, she will instead have to carry a picture of her sister down the aisle, the Gazette says.
“She will never be my maid of honor. If I visit my sister I have to go to a graveyard and see a headstone. I will never get a text or phone call from again,” Simmons added.
Jessica Brooks, Hancock’s mother, had stern words for the woman who killed her daughter and grandaughter, the Gazette reports.
“I know you think this all about you. But it's about Reagan and Braxlynn,” Brooks told Parker. “She (Hancock) was one of the very few people on this Earth who cared about you. Now who cares about you? My baby was alive still fighting for her babies when you tore her open and ripped her baby from her stomach.”
Crisp showed the jury a crime scene photo of Hancock soaked in the blood on the floor of her own home, the Gazette says. TXK Today previously reported that during the attack, Hancock’s three-year-old daughter was also home and left alone after Parker fled following the murder.
“If she (Parker) is capable of that level of violence, she is a future danger. She needs to be on death row. She slashed her hundreds of times. She beat her with a hammer. You are going to say she's not violent? She ripped her uterus out by the back. Look at what she did,” Crisp told the jury, the Gazette reports.
Crisp continued by discussing the close-up nature of the crime, the Gazette says.
“How close did she get to bash her head in with a hammer? Did she kneel over her? Did she straddle her? And then she slashed her throat,” Crisp added.
“The circumstances in which Reagan died are horrible and there is no doubt it was torture. But a mother died fighting for her child. That's how she left the world. A woman who died fighting,” Crisp stated, according to the Gazette.
Jeff Harrelson, Parker’s attorney, told the jury that words used throughout the trial, such as manipulative, heinous, revenge, and remorse, were used to dehumanize his client and didn’t paint the entire picture of Parker’s life, the Gazette says.
“You know now after hearing all of that evidence that there are lots of shades of gray; there are layers to people's lives,” Harrelson said.
“She is a human,” Harrelson said, adding that Parker was a “woman, daughter, sister and mother.”
He pointed at Parker’s family and friends, accusing them of not confronting Parker about the fake pregnancy, the Gazette says.
“There was no safety net when everyone saw the wheels were off,” Harrelson said.
The Gazette adds that he quoted the Bible, adding “What are we doing here? We're not putting down old Yeller cause he got rabies. We're dealing with a human, a mother.”
Crisp’s closing rebuttal narrowed in on Harrelson’s attempt to humanize his client to the jury, the Gazette says.
“She told her children she was having their baby sister. They dragged a cow around with a pink bow on it. If you do that, you forfeited the title of mother. She's not fit to call herself mother,” Crisp said.
The Gazette reports that the court room overflowed with people the day of the sentencing. After a month of listening to the heart and gut-wrenching evidence, after hearing the sentence verdict, closing statements, and victim impact statements, Judge John Tidwell ended the entire arduous ordeal with five words:
“Take her to death row.”