NEW BOSTON, Texas — Trial is set to begin in September 2022 for a woman accused of murdering a pregnant friend and kidnapping her unborn child, but the process of picking a jury is scheduled to begin more than a month before.
Taylor Rene Parker, aka Taylor Morton, is facing two counts of capital murder and a count of kidnapping in the October 2020 deaths of Reagan Hancock and her unborn daughter, Braxlynn Sage Hancock. Parker has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Parker, 28, appeared before 202nd District Judge John Tidwell for a pretrial hearing Friday morning with Texarkana lawyer Jeff Harrelson and Mount Pleasant lawyer Mac Cobb. Tidwell began the hearing by stating that he has consulted with both the defense and state about scheduling.
Tidwell told the parties he has set "hard dates" for getting the case to trial.
Tidwell scheduled juror qualification for June 27, 2022. At that time all potential jurors who have received a summons will appear. Jurors may not be qualified to serve if, for example, they don't reside in Bowie County or if they have a felony conviction. Potential jurors who do qualify will be asked to fill out a questionnaire meant to aid the state and defense in jury selection.
Because the state has announced it does intend to seek the death penalty for Parker, jury selection will differ from a trial where a prison term is sought. Jurors will report individually to answer questions from the defense and prosecution during the month of August 2022. The process of picking a 12-member jury and two or three alternates is expected to take weeks.
First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp, who is prosecuting the case with Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards, said the state and defense are conferring about what will be on the juror questionnaire and how to proceed with submitting evidence to the crime lab for analysis such as DNA testing.
Tidwell said he expects opening statements and testimony in the guilt or innocence phase of trial to begin Sept. 19, 2022, and wrap up by Oct. 14, 2022. Should the jury convict Taylor, the punishment phase of trial will begin Oct. 24, 2022, Tidwell said.
If a jury returns a verdict of guilty to capital murder, they will then be tasked with deciding if she should receive life in prison without parole or death by lethal injection.
At a pretrial hearing last month Crisp said the state intends to try Parker on the capital murder charge in the mother's death first.
Parker allegedly attacked 21-year-old Reagan Hancock the morning of Oct. 9 at her home in New Boston, according to a probable cause affidavit. A Texas state trooper pulled Parker over in De Kalb, Texas, not far from the Oklahoma border, just after 9:30 a.m. Parker was allegedly performing CPR on the infant girl in her lap and the umbilical cord appeared to be coming from her pants.
An ambulance transported Parker and the baby to McCurtain Memorial Hospital in Idabel, Oklahoma, where the baby was pronounced dead and doctors determined Parker had not given birth.
The Texas trooper first made contact with Parker at 9:37 a.m. Oct. 9. Approximately 10:20 a.m. the same morning, Hancock's mother discovered her daughter's body in the living room of the home Hancock shared with her husband and 3-year-old daughter in New Boston.
When LifeNet personnel turned Hancock over, a large cut across her abdomen was revealed and it was determined the baby had been removed.
A small scalpel, which had not been visible to investigators at the crime scene, was found lodged in Hancock's neck during an autopsy by a Dallas medical examiner.
Parker and Reagan Hancock were friends. Reagan Hancock posted a sonogram photo on a social media site with an early November due date in the months before her murder.
Parker allegedly convinced her boyfriend she was pregnant and often made social media posts supporting her claim. The boyfriend reported that he expected to meet Parker at a hospital in Idabel at noon Oct. 9 for a planned, induced labor and delivery.
Parker's next pretrial hearing is set for late May.