NEW BOSTON, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – On day three of the Taylor Parker trial, prosecutors continue to build their case against the woman accused of faking a pregnancy and killing a pregnant mother to take her unborn baby was not only capable of running a big con but bold about it.
Parker, now 29, is charged with kidnapping and capital murder in the death of 21-year-old Reagan Simmons Hancock and the fetal abduction and murder of Simmons’ baby girl, Braxlynn. Parker could face the death penalty if convicted.
“Syrup heiress” seeks ranch investment
Testimony Wednesday morning detailed a $20M real estate deal Parker attempted to pull off despite only having office jobs at a staffing agency and an OBGYN clinic.
On the stand, real estate agent Rusty Lowe testified that Taylor initially told him she was an heir to the Blackburn syrup fortune when she first reached out to him in early December 2019 about a property along the Red River in McCurtain County called Pecan Point. It was listed at $4.7M. The deal would have required a payment of $200,000 upfront on the $3.5 million Parker offered in what’s known as an “earnest payment,” typically paid after a contract is signed and a real estate deal as a show of good faith that the buyer intends to purchase a property.
While Lowe dealt mainly with Parker directly via text and sometimes phone calls, she and her boyfriend, Wade Griffin, came out to view the property, and both names were on the contract. It was noted during testimony that Parker used the hyphenated name Taylor Parker–Griffin, even though she and Griffin were not married.
Lowe said the couple seemed oddly urgent about their interest in the property and showed up to see it in a vehicle that “kind of didn’t match the situation. “Still, Lowe said, “We always give people the benefit of the doubt, but we have to vet that. “
Over the next four months, Lowe says he tried to work with Parker to verify the funds for the earnest payment, only to run into roadblocks as each source of funding for the deal fell through, and Lowe was never able to get anyone he was corresponding with via email at the banks involved on the phone.
When a purported $7 million wire transfer from the inheritance failed to come through, Parker moved on to claiming the money would come from oil and gas leases. When that failed, Parker claimed her Uncle Butch would just give her the money to make the deal, which at that point had grown to include two other properties totaling around $20 million. She even wrote two separate checks for $150,000 each and gave them to Lowe, only to call him a short time later to arrange to take them back. Those checks were shown in court, along with texts that showed how she explained to Lowe that the bank had advised her they preferred she wire the funds.
The money never came through.
As Lowe testified, prosecutors showed the jury emails, wire transfer receipts, a copy of the oil and gas lease, and letters he received from what he was led to believe were contacts at Parker’s bank and, later, contacts at her uncle’s bank.
Lowe had a landman in Tyler review the oil & gas lease, who looked it over and told him it was “red hot” and not legitimate.
Lowe says he and others in his office tried to reach out to Shelly Linx, whose name was on the correspondence from Shell Western Global as the person representing Parker, and claiming to verify the existence of wire fund transfers totaling nearly $370 million. They could never find Linx. Emails presented to the jury show those emails came from email@example.com. As Parker’s defense team pointed out on cross-examination, it’s not likely that correspondence from a global energy company would be coming from an AOL address.
“Did it seem unprofessional to you?” Harrelson asked.
“The whole thing caused concern. That’s why we kept vetting,” Lowe responded.
Lowe testified that Parker would “scold “him when he tried to reach out to Linx and other contact names in the banking correspondence and that she grew especially upset and animated when he tried to reach her Uncle Butch. Parker also admonished Lowe in text messages shown in court for attempts by his office to verify their banking information.
“After talking to my dad and attorney, whom have bought land for more than this, it was stated to me the seller can ask but you don’t have to ask them to verify what we have in bank,” Parker texted Lowe. “Wade and myself both weren’t ok with him calling for all that. my Uncle Butch is a multimillion-dollar land owner and he says he has asked and been denied.”
Soon after, Lowe got another email from “Shelly Linx,” relaying similar assertions.
“Banking information is completely confidential. The buyers were not under the assumption a verification letter was required until you requested it in your office. I am sending this verification form since I will be providing funds. Funds and where they come from is not of importance as long as the seller is paid from my understanding. The clients are not ok with a seller calling their bank and are firm on their decision in that matter.”
Lowe confirmed in court that banking information is not always required, but at that point with all the red flags and delays, it was not unreasonable. He said agents do ask routinely in the verification process.
Lowe said he had his suspicions, but that was why they continued to try to vet Parker’s funding. Parker’s defense attorney suggested he continued to pursue the deal despite the red flags and months of delays because more than $1.15 million in commissions was at stake.
Lowe said he did drop what was left of any hopes it would work out when Parker texted him in late April to tell him the deal was off because her mother had duped her and made the whole thing up. The inheritance, the oil and gas lease, and the money from Uncle Butch never existed. Neither did Shelly Linx or any of the other contacts Lowe believed he had been corresponding with over the past four months. Her mother had made those up, too. Parker’s purported attorney, Blake Lawington, did not exist, either.
Lowe’s testimony indicated Griffin did not appear to be in on the con.
“He was excited and energetic about it but came to fall back a bit when he started to doubt the money was going to come through,” Lowe said, adding that the money was coming from her side of the family. He would call Lowe to ask if the money had come through, which suggests he was not able to get answers from Parker. “He was very concerned.”
Of particular interest to Griffin, according to Lowe, was an agreement that would allow the couple to take possession of the recreational rights on the property, specifically hog and duck hunting, but only after the earnest money was in escrow. The prosecution pointed to this as one of the reasons Parker appeared to be so determined to pursue the deal, as she looked for ways to give Griffin reasons to stay in the relationship. Another was the lucrative investment potential of the pecan grove on the property.
After defense attorney Jeff Harrelson questioned why Lowe continued to pursue the deal in spite of some seemingly obvious red flags, First District Attorney Kelley Crisp returned with one more question.
“The implication in the courtroom this week has been that these invented people or the lies themselves are so fantastical that people would have to be ignorant to buy into it. Have you ever seen someone or encountered someone like Taylor Parker that was so convincing in conning you?”
“No, I’ve never encountered anyone like this. She believed it. There’s no doubt in my mind she believed it.”
Taylor Parker claims her mother ordered a hit on her
The outrageous tales Parker allegedly told according to the testimony that followed Lowe’s only managed to outdo the details revealed about the real estate scheme.
Angela Pate is a chiropractor who moved with her husband, Roger, to Simms in the Spring of 2018. Roger Pate was Wade Griffin’s boss at Atlas Roofing. On the stand Wednesday, Angela Pate recalled how they first met over dinner at a local restaurant, and how Parker’s “over the top” friendliness by the end of the night made her suspicious.
What happened over the coming weeks would bear that out, according to Pate.
“Everything I’m gonna tell you sounds bizarre,” Pate told the jury. “And it’s so much that it’s hard to keep straight, but I’m going to do try my best to tell you what a rational person thinks was going on when they’re hearing these things.”
Although the Pates did not know Wade before moving to Simms, prosecutors say Parker used their relationship to manipulate him. That allegedly included drawing them into her family drama and ultimately leaving them in fear for their own safety.
Parker told Pate her mother always hated her, never wanted her, resented her since she was born, and mistreated her growing up. She also told Pate that her family had old money from owning lots of land and oil & gas leases that made a lot on royalties that “came in all the time.” Her grandfather had gotten ill and couldn’t farm his property, so she would go out there and try to help with the farm when no one else would help. When she and Wade got together, she went to her grandmother and asked them about taking care of the land and getting it back to where it used to be. They made a deal to open an account in Taylor’s name and direct royalties to it, but that money could only be used for improvements to the farm.
At that point, Pate said she wondered how Parker could have all that money and still have holes in her shoes and pants falling off of her. Parker explained that her parents wanted her to be normal.
If something happened to her, Parker told Pate that Wade would have control of the property. But, Parker said, her mother Shona did not like Wade and thought he was just out to get her money. So Shona withdrew $3 million out of Taylor’s account and took off with it. Parker told Pate that someone in law enforcement named Cobern came and to tell her that her mother had used the money to put out a hit on her and that she was in danger. According to Parker, Cobern had warned her that the “Mexican mafia” was involved.
Pate says Parker “hid out” at their home and told her there were undercover officers watching the house on a 24/7 security detail. She texted them in front of Pate when she was heading out to make sure the coast was clear and told Pate there were “cameras all over the place” trained on the house.
Pate says she never saw anyone.
Parker told Pate her law enforcement contact told her that her mother had given money to a middleman to find someone to do the hit, and that middleman had been caught and jailed. She showed Pate texts from “Cobern” about developments in the investigation. It was through “Cobern” that Parker said she learned her mother had taken her own life after she was taken into custody.
Parker said she did not tell her grandparents about her mother’s death because they would not be able to handle it. When Pate began to wonder where Shona body was after enough time had passed that it should have been released for burial, Parker explained it away.
“You never doubted her. She had answers for everything.”
However, when Parker later told Pate that her mother showed up alive at Christmas dinner, Pate says she did not offer an explanation. She just said everyone was shocked because they thought she was dead.
Pate later found a rambling and vaguely threatening message in her junk mail from a woman claiming to be Parker’s mother that read like a villain’s soliloquy trope.
Listen you know nothing about Taylor. Don’t try to be a mother figure to her. I did an amazing job making her look bad. It took time and accurantely planning my ever step of the way. She brought you to the bank and made herself look like she was lying to get a check cashed. I had already arranged everything. My helper knew she was coming with you because she called making sure. You wasted your time on her because that check was never good. Let her fail in life. Let her see what it’s like to have nothing. I’ve worked it out perfectly. I’ve arranged this all so there are cracks you see. Things won’t add up and she will look even more like a liar. I stole numbers to make her think people were calling and doing things for her and it was never them. This will not end well for her. No matter where she turns or what she says there wil be a like to fall back on her. See I am going to send her in such deep of a depression she will probably try to kill herself like she has tried before. But if not then making Wade leave will do the trick. See he will have no choice but the leave because nothing will be true. I’ve made his family turn on them from pretending to be people like a dealership that didn’t get paid. Does it click now to you people? Just let her fall into a hole and not get out. She will go crazy thinking she did the right thing for a curtain reason but in reality I made her think that way. She has a way of wanting to protect everyone. Well that’s what got her into this mess. If you want to be her mom good luck. She is like the child we should have terminated in the beginning because she was the accident I didn’t want. Maybe you will get the big picture and enjoy the mess. She King’s for someone to love her and when Wade leaves because I’ve made her out to be a liar well she’ll come running to you. Jus twatch. Nice website and Facebook. Maybe you can pop some sense into her because she has none.email from “Mandy Boyd” to Dr. Angela Pate, 4/7/2020
Pate became emotional on the stand after Crisp asked her to confirm that she later learned it was Parker that had written the email.
“It was so real, and it was so chaotic,” Pate said. She and her husband “believed this 100 percent” and felt endangered now, too. They went to Texarkana, Arkansas Police Chief Bobby Jordan, who also testified Wednesday and said it all sounded plausible in spite of some potential red flags.
A desperate search for proof of pregnancy
Through it all, Pate said Parker was making plans that included buying a big ranch on the Red River with Wade, even as she worried to Pate about him leaving her.
“You could tell he didn’t feel that same way about her,” Pate said. But Parker seemed obsessed with how he felt about her and determined to make him love her. “She was so giddy. It was like she was trying to buy him.”
She told Pate she thought having a baby would mean so much to him, that it was something he’s always wanted, and that it would tie them together.
It was an idea Parker would become more invested in than any of her previous obsessions.
As a chiropractor, Pate explained that she does a kind of testing that Parker referred to as “talking to her body” because it involved “asking a question” of the body through the use of touch and response. She says Parker texted her one day to ask her to “talk to her body” because she had woken up and looked in the mirror and saw that her aura had changed colors. She believed it meant she was pregnant.
Pate said she was uncomfortable with this request for a number of reasons and told Parker so, but she showed up anyway. Pate told her the response was inconclusive, but Parker seemed to interpret that as a possible yes and got excited, asking Pate for advice on how to tell Wade. Pate, who knew Parker had her tubes tied and a partial hysterectomy, advised her to take a test first.
Parker said she would but also texted Pate that it was “intended by God.”
On April 9, 2020, Parker sent Pate a “pregnancy verification letter” to print out that estimated a due date of September 22, but Pate realized it had the name of the nurse who signed it as the patient who tested positive for pregnancy instead of Parker’s. When Pate pointed this out, Parker grew upset and told Pate it had to be the work of her mother through a “mole” at the clinic and complained that no one believed she was pregnant.
Pate said she took Parker to Walgreens and bought several pregnancy tests. None came back positive. They bought several more and got the same results, although Pate said they thought maybe there was something faint in the result window.
The same day, Pate took Parker to a clinic and get a urine test. She did not want to go to her primary clinic or the one that she said had purposely botched the previous test, so they went to Health Express in Mount Pleasant. Pate said when Parker came out of the clinic, she had an odd look on her face and a printout in her hand. Stapled to the printout, which appeared to be some kind of lab test results in graph form, was a proof of pregnancy letter similar to the botched one and dated the same day. This letter also estimated a due date of September 22, but it had Parker’s name on it.
Pate said on the stand that the papers had never been folded and that Parker went in with nothing but her wallet in her hand. She had no idea how Parker did it.
On Wednesday, jurors saw both “proof of pregnancy” letters before Crisp pulled out the real results of the test from Healthcare Express that show the urine test that day came back negative. Pate had no way of knowing that at the time, however, and Parker asked her to call Wade to tell him that she had gotten a positive result.
Outrageous lies and leveraging family ties
It wasn’t the first time Taylor Parker would ask Angela Pate or her husband Roger to call her boyfriend. She asked Angela to text him or call him and tell him that Taylor was too stressed and needed to calm down or she would lose the baby.
“Wade this is Angela you need to chill,” Pate texted Wade. “If Taylor gets too worked up she might end up in the hospital, and the child will be in danger. Not to mention she could lose her job if she has to go on bed rest. What’s more important?”
“I’m worried, Angela. that’s all,” Wade responded. “I’m upset because we have too much on our plate and its my responsibility to provide for everyone. What’s more important to me is her and the baby. It was not my intentions to make her upset. I don’t know what to do or say but freak out.”
Parker also sent Pate a picture of her bloody hand one day, claiming she was bleeding after getting squeezed between cows on the farm. “This doesn’t look good,” she wrote in the accompanying text.
Whether Wade believed Parker was pregnant or not, it was clear to Parker that he did not want to talk with her about it. And Pate says the reason why was clear to everyone but Parker.
“Wade didn’t want a baby,” Pate said. “It was a one-way relationship. He did not love her, and it was obvious to everyone.”
Prosecutors say all of these machinations were aimed at manipulating Griffin into staying with her and demonstrate the staggering levels of fraud the jury will need to understand Parker was willing to commit in order to understand what happened on October 9, 2020.
That is the day Simmons’ mother went to her daughter’s house on Austin Street in New Boston and discovered a gruesome scene. According to the affidavit filed for Parker’s arrest, Simmons was face-down in the living room, “with a large abundance of what appeared to be blood throughout the house,” not only on the floor but on furniture, walls, appliances, and other items in the home. Simmons had been cut open, and her baby, 35 weeks along, was gone.
Just before Simmons’ body was discovered that morning, a Texas state trooper pulled Parker over in De Kalb and found the dying newborn in her lap, umbilical cord still attached and tucked into Parker’s pants. The baby girl was pronounced dead at the hospital, where doctors also determined Parker had not given birth.
When investigators arrived and interviewed Parker, she confessed, telling them she was in a physical altercation with Simmons and abducted the unborn child.
Recap: First two days of Taylor Parker trial
Prosecutors told the jury during opening statements Monday that Parker pretended to be pregnant and schemed to find one to claim as her own, not because she wanted to have a baby but because she was desperate to keep her then-boyfriend. The mother of two was unable to bear any more children of her own after having her tubes tied and a partial hysterectomy long before she met Wade Griffin.
Testimony in the first two days of the trial delved into Parker’s relationships with Griffin, as well as friends, co-workers, and ex-husband. Prosecutors laid out a history of lies, faked illnesses, and manipulation. She told friends she had the hysterectomy because her uterus had become “eaten up” with Stage IV cancer.
“I’m just mind-blown that I ever believed anything she said,” former close friend Abby Bell said on the stand.
Parker also claimed she had miscarried twins and told a co-worker she lost a baby girl due to complications after giving birth to her. The co-worker had confided in Parker that she had buried her baby several months before.
“She preyed on me,” the former co-worker said of Parker, who allegedly went on to offer her $20,000 to carry her baby as a surrogate. Later, she says Parker told her they had gotten a surrogate but that she slept with her husband and got pregnant. In a cruelly tone-deaf comment, Parker allegedly told the co-worker that she hoped the surrogate miscarried.
“She’s very calculated. She navigates and controls conversations. She plays on emotional trauma, and she doesn’t care,” another former co-worker.
Taylor Parker’s ex-husband testified that he did not learn of his wife’s partial hysterectomy until a doctor mentioned it during an ER visit after they were married. He testified that Taylor did not want to talk about that omission but began pushing for the couple to find a surrogate. She told him they could get a loan and use money from an inheritance to pay for it.
He also recounted a far-fetched story Parker fabricated to explain why a man who was supposed to deliver the cash from her grandmother’s inheritance never showed up: he was in a wreck, and the EMTs made off with the money. The man, who prosecutors believe was Taylor using a spoofed number, texted Hunter a photo of a bag full of cash to prove the inheritance was real. Hunter recounted how the same image was the first result that popped up when he googled “blue duffel bag full of cash,” drawing muted snickers from some in the gallery in an apparent response to the audacity of the failed ploy.
When confronted with questions, Parker said, “she would bury herself in more lies.”
Hunter and Taylor separated in April 2019, less than one year after marriage. Taylor was dating Wade Griffin within weeks and announced in a Facebook post on March 14, 2020 that they were expecting a girl.
The couple was having serious enough relationship trouble by August that a co-worker says Parker talked her into posing as her sister and calling Griffin to dig for information about where he stood in the relationship.
As their relationship grew rockier, Parker allegedly fabricated more than a pregnancy. She again used spoofing apps, this time to fake text conversations with family members so she could screenshot them and send them to Griffin to support her claims and defend herself against his family’s growing suspicions about her.
All the while, Taylor Parker gushed in Facebook and Instagram posts about her relationship with Wade and their excitement about the pending September 2020 arrival of their baby girl, who she named Clancy Gaile. Her social media featured dozens of baby belly selfies and updates on non-existent visits to the doctor’s office.
In addition to purchasing a prosthetic pregnancy belly, data extracted from Parker’s devices revealed extensive evidence of her efforts to maintain the appearance of pregnancy while resorting to increasingly desperate measures to find a baby as her fake due date approached.
Forensics expert and Texas Rangers Lt. Jared Brown testified that it all added up to show that Parker faked her pregnancy, took steps to report the baby as her own, lied about an inheritance from her grandmother that she claimed could be used to pay for surrogacy, “and ultimately planned and carried out the murder.”
Parker’s defense team has not categorically denied any of the lies and schemes described in testimony so far in the trial. Instead, they have questioned the credulity of the people who fell for them and even seemed at times to lean into the suggestion that Parker’s behavior was not normal.
They also questioned why no one contacted law enforcement if they suspected Parker was faking her pregnancy. One investigator on the stand pointed out that it’s not illegal to fake a pregnancy, and you can’t arrest someone on suspicion they might commit a crime.