NEW BOSTON, Texas (KTAL/KSHV) — After two-and-a-half weeks, jury selection is complete in the capital murder trial of a Simms, Texas, woman accused of killing a New Boston mother and the baby she allegedly removed from her womb.
The 12-member, two-alternate jury selection was completed Tuesday afternoon. It was an arduous undertaking by the court that began with 2,000 people receiving summons to report to New Boston High School for jury duty in June. Prospective jurors were then given questionnaires to fill out.
From those questionnaires, the court, prosecutors, and defense attorneys cut potential jurors for various reasons that included but weren’t limited to age, being a caretaker, knowing the victim or defendant or their families and other matters making them ineligible for jury duty.
Eventually, there were 500 people who went on to the next phase of the process, voir dire or preliminary examination of jurors by the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Unlike other trials where jurors are brought into the courtroom in panels, this voir dire was conducted individually, meaning each prospective juror was brought in and questioned alone.
Voir dire in a capital murder case is unique in that each juror must be “death penalty qualified,” meaning being able to vote in favor of the death penalty if that juror believes the crime warrants it.
The voir dire began in earnest on August 1. Individual interviews with prospective jurors went on all day, every day until the 14 jurors were seated.
With the jury in place, opening statements will begin Sept. 12 in the Bowie County Courthouse and will be followed by the prosecution calling its first witness.
It is unclear whether the jurors will be sequestered after the trial begins, but they are not sequestered in the leadup to the trial, according to court administrator Deborah Neild.
Although Parker’s defense attorney filed a motion for a change of venue for the trial, it would only have been considered if an impartial jury could not be found among the pool of prospective jurors from Bowie County.
The probable cause affidavit on the charges filed in Bowie County describes a gruesome scene discovered by Hancock’s mother, Jessica Brooks, when she went to her daughter’s house on Austin Street on the morning of Oct. 9, 2020, and found her daughter face-down in the living room.
According to the affidavit, there was “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.
Officers on the scene learned Hancock was about 34 weeks pregnant and called for EMS to come to the scene and check on the status of the baby. When they arrived and turned Hancock’s body over, they found a very large cut across her abdomen and there was no baby.
The affidavit also reveals that when a Texas state trooper pulled Taylor Parker over in De Kalb just after 9:30 a.m. that same morning, she had a newborn infant in her lap.
The trooper told Texas Rangers that “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 trooper said Parker was performing CPR on the infant. LifeNet EMS came to the scene and took Parker and the infant to a hospital in Idabel, Oklahoma, but the child did not survive.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was called when doctors at the hospital determined that Parker had not given birth to the baby. When OSBI investigators arrived and interviewed Parker, she told them she was “in a physical altercation with Simmons and abducted the unborn child.”
Investigators also interviewed Parker’s boyfriend, who told them that she had told him and others that she was pregnant and that she was supposed to go to the hospital in Idabel and pre-register for labor to be induced for the birth of their child on Oct. 9.
Her boyfriend said he was scheduled to meet Parker at the hospital around lunchtime that day for the birth and that they had even had a gender reveal party in celebration of the baby’s arrival.
According to the affidavit, Parker admitted that she was not pregnant and that she used a “small scalpel” to remove the unborn infant from Hancock’s body, and that she had left the scalpel at the scene. A small scalpel was found in Hancock’s neck during her autopsy.
Parker caused the death of Hancock and abducted the unborn child from her body, the affidavit concludes.
“Parker did not have consent to leave the home with the child and due to the inability to provide necessary care to the child, Parker caused the death of the baby.”
Crisp and Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards are prosecuting, while Parker is represented by Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana.