Women on Death Row
On November 14, 2022, Taylor Renee Parker became the seventh woman to arrive on Texas’ death row. The 29-year-old Parker was convicted on October 4, 2022, of capital murder by a Bowie County jury. On November 9, 2022, the jury sentenced her to death for the October 2020 murder of Reagan Simmons-Hancock, a 21-year-old pregnant woman whose baby was cut from her womb and eventually died.
“Take her to death row,” Judge John Tidwell instructed the court bailiff after the jury announced its sentence.
In a November 13, 2022, report for Kxan News by Carolyn Roy, Parker was transferred that same day to the women’s death row at the maximum security Mountain View Unit located in Gatesville, where she will await execution along with the six other women on death row. They are:
- Erica Yvonne Sheppard: 27 years, 7 months on death row. Thirty-nine years of age. 19 years old at the time of the offense.
- Darlie Lynn Routier: 25 years, 9 months on death row. Fifty-two years of age. 26 years old at the time of the offense.
- Brittany Marlowe Holberg: 24 years, 8 months on death row. Thirty=nine years of age. 23 years old at the time of the offense.
- Linda Carty: 20 years, 8 months on death row. Sixty-four years of age. 42 years old at the time of the offense.
- Melissa Elizabeth Lucio: 16 years, 4 months on death row. Fifty-two years of age. 38 years old at the time of the offense.
- Kimberly Cargill: 10 years, 5 months on death row. Fifty years of age. 42 years old at the time of the offense.
The last woman executed in the United States was Lisa Montgomery. The 52-year-old Montgomery was put to death by the federal government—its first woman executed in 67 years—in the death house at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Montgomery’s execution was carried out in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic on January 13, 2021. Her crime, which was remarkably similar to Taylor Parker’s offense (although the baby survived in this incident), was committed in Skidmore, Missouri, in December 2004, for which she received the death sentence in 2007 under the Federal Kidnapping Act of 1932.
Montgomery was convicted under the federal Act because she traveled from her home in Kansas to Missouri to kill the mother of the unborn child and returned to Kansas with the child.
Montgomery’s execution marked the 17th woman executed in the U.S. since the official moratorium on the death penalty ended in 1976. Texas carried out six of those executions—the last being Lisa Ann Coleman, who was put to death on September 17, 2014.
Since the average time the six women on Texas’ death row with Parker have served is 20 years, Parker can expect to be housed under harsh long-term conditions for at least two decades.
As Carolyn Roy reported, Parker will be housed in a one-person solitary cell that measures 60 square feet, enclosed by a steel door, and in which there is a combination toilet-sink-drinking fountain, a bunk, a metal writing table with a metal stool, and a window. The inmates are allowed out of their cells to shower and for a daily two-hour recreation period. Some are allowed to work at prison job assignments, such as making pillows and blankets—privileges not granted to male inmates on death row at the state’s Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas.
Texas has executed 577 individuals since 1976—by far the most of any state, with Oklahoma coming in second with 118 executions. The Death Penalty Information Center issued a 2021 report that shows Texas is third in the nation in death row exonerations with 16—a clear indication of the flaws in the punishment.
Eleven states in recent years have abolished the death penalty, while three more have placed moratoriums on executions. Most have done so because the death penalty is arbitrarily applied and disproportionately imposed on people of color.
For example, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, roughly 75 percent of the inmates on both the women’s and men’s death rows are people of color (Blacks and Hispanics).
It will cost the State of Texas three times as much taxpayer money to keep Taylor Parker on death row for the next 20 years than it would to house her with a life sentence.
Whether Taylor Parker will ever be executed remains to be seen. What is certain is that her death sentence is not only a drain on the state’s limited financial resources but also on its moral character.