By Rebekah Riess, CNN
A Texas woman convicted of killing a pregnant woman and then taking her unborn baby, who also died, has been sentenced to death, court records show.
A Bowie County jury last month after about an hour of deliberations found Taylor Rene Parker guilty of capital murder in the deaths of Reagan Michelle Simmons and her baby, the district attorney’s office previously said. The same jury was then tasked with choosing her sentence — death or prison without parole.
The jury handed down the death sentence Wednesday, online court records show.
“Based on the strong defense case we put on at sentencing, we are disappointed in the verdict, but we respect the jury’s findings after a long, factually and emotionally difficult trial,” Parker’s attorney, Jeff Harrelson, said.
With her death sentence, Parker becomes one of just seven women on Texas’ death row, according to statistics from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Parker had told her boyfriend and others she was pregnant, held a gender reveal party and on October 9, 2020, said she was going to a hospital in Idabel, Oklahoma, to preregister for labor to be induced.
That same morning, police in New Boston, Texas, west of Texarkana, received a 911 call from a woman who reported someone had killed her daughter, the affidavit said. Responding officers found Simmons, who they learned had been 34 weeks pregnant, with a large cut along her abdomen and the baby no longer in her womb.
Texas state troopers conducted a traffic stop of a car that morning and found Parker holding a baby in her lap and “the umbilical cord was connected to the infant, which appeared to be coming out of the female’s pants, as if she gave birth to the child,” the affidavit said.
Parker and the baby were taken to the hospital in Idabel, where hospital staff determined Parker had not given birth to the child. Parker then admitted to being in a “physical altercation” with the victim and abducting the unborn baby from the victim’s body.
Authorities determined Parker caused the deaths of both Simmons and her baby “due to the inability to provide necessary care to the child,” the affidavit said.
“We are just so thankful justice has been served today, for not only our family, our friends, the prosecution team, our community,” Jessica Brooks, the mother of the victim, told CNN affiliate KSLA, which reported the sentencing trial lasted 25 days and included 142 witnesses.
According to the station, prosecutors argued for death, saying Parker would not change, while the defense, in seeking the provide jurors with context from Parker’s life, said she had traumatic issues that had not been addressed.
“I’m overwhelmed with happiness it’s over,” the victim’s sister Emily Simmons said, per KSLA, “because (Parker) has been such a burden in our life for so long now that I haven’t been able to think about my sister without thinking about her.”
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CNN’s Dakin Andone contributed to this report.