Protecting the Community

photos by Matt Cornelius
photos by Matt Cornelius

Protecting the Community

Around the world, strong women are being called to lead their communities in service like never before. From the highest-ranking political offices to global companies on the cutting edge of technology—women are at the helm of it all. Standing on the shoulders of generations of women who came before, the role of women has bloomed to be inclusive of all things, at all times.

Texarkana has followed suit, empowering women across all industries and demographics by encouraging the strengths that women bring to the business environment. With the capacity to multitask, listen, empathize, nurture, engage others and see issues from a different perspective, Kelley Crisp and Lauren Richards have humbly risen to the task of bringing justice to those who need it most. These women have keen intelligence and a deep passion for one of the most challenging jobs in law enforcement.

Though Crisp is the first female to hold the title Bowie County First Assistant District Attorney, and Richards is among a handful of female pioneers in the position of Bowie County Assistant District Attorney, the two remain advocates for all who support them as the real heroes of the story. Crisp and Richards point to the exceptional job the police perform daily and insist they are always supported by their incredible co-workers who go above and beyond to cover their backs during significant cases. They talk about their husbands, their village, and their community first, because those are the kind of leaders they are: humble, modest.

Bowie County First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp

In one of their most recent trials, Crisp and Richards prosecuted Taylor Parker for the murder of a young mother, Reagan Simmons Hancock, and her unborn baby Braxlynn Sage. National news outlets followed the story, and it was the longest trial Bowie County had ever experienced. With a guilty verdict, a jury of six men and six women sentenced Parker to death. This historic outcome makes Parker one of only seven women currently on death row in the State of Texas. While justice was served in this case, there are never any winners after such a loss.

“As we prepare a case for trial, nearly every witness and family member we meet is dealing with the most traumatic and most difficult circumstance they have ever encountered. There is a genuine pain and loss that they are working through in each of the conversations,” Crisp said as Richards nodded her head in agreement.

In preparation for the Parker trial, the team worked seven days a week for ten months straight. During the trial, New Boston served as their home, which meant sacrificing social events, family gatherings, and just about every comfort and normalcy you can imagine while they gave 100% of themselves to the case. The volume of work was overwhelming. They had to unpack every aspect of the defendant’s complicated life and leave no stone unturned. “You basically turn into a recluse,” Crisp shared. “Most people have no idea how much  preparation and work goes into a trial like this. People see us up there talking to the jury and think that’s it. Hardly! There are hundreds or thousands of hours of preparation and a team of people helping us. While the demands of other jobs require a committed team, the nature of our trials  means that people’s lives are on the line and justice hangs in the balance.”

The perseverance of this dynamic duo has become very personal. “We are citizens of Bowie County. Our kids live here. Sure, we know we are only two people, but we can set an example for people around us. Maybe we will inspire future young lawyers to want to protect the community like we do,” Richards said. She continued, “We know we can’t save the world, but we can do what we can do to keep it safe here in Bowie County.”

Bowie County Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards

In addition to doing their part to ensure justice for the county, whenever they can, Crisp and Richards make a special effort to connect the police officers in a case with the citizens they have helped, so both sides can share the humanity and love. Crisp remembers when she was a child, people seemed to feel differently about police, and she wants to bring back the bond that once existed between officers and the community at large.

Thoughtful behavior and a genuine love for people and the law are nothing new for either half of this dream team. Crisp and Richards both heard their professional calling at a young age. “When I was a little girl, I didn’t even know what the word “attorney” meant…but I still somehow knew that I wanted to be a lawyer,” Richards said. Crisp nodded, “Same here… that’s just always what I wanted to be. And my dad told me I could do it, so I believed I could.”

Richards grew up in Texarkana, Texas, and graduated from Pleasant Grove High School. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from The University of Texas at Austin and her Juris Doctor from Baylor Law School. Crisp grew up in Booneville, Arkansas. She has three degrees, including her Juris Doctor, from The University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.

The team met in 2006 and became trial partners in 2015. “We are like sisters—connected on a deeper level,” they agreed. In the courtroom, this connection manifests as a gift. Each woman knows what the other is thinking, how she will respond, and what she will do next. This allows them to move with more confidence and accuracy in front of the jury. Whether it be telepathy, intellect, or just A+ communication skills, these ladies have found a consistent way to gain the outcomes they seek for the county.

There are plenty of challenges. Not only are they a minority as women lawyers, but they are also younger than the majority of practicing attorneys in the region. On occasion, an out-of-town lawyer has shown up and mistakenly underestimated them. Undoubtedly, those underestimations never last long, and Crisp and Richards always remain professional while competently proving themselves daily.

They speak affectionately when mentioning the support, they gain from each other. “I don’t know how anyone could do this job without [a partner like] Lauren,” Crisp said. “And vice versa,” Richards followed. Their husbands are also core to their success. Both women credit the men in their lives for unwavering support and selfless attention to their families. Managing kids, church and school activities, friends, and a constant stream of questions about their high-profile wives—their husbands are the glue, helping hold it all together.

Is there a next step on the horizon for this legal team? For this pair, the focus is on the here and now. The court has a backlog of cases that desperately need their full attention, and each day adds something new. Crisp and Richards know how vital their work is, so they rarely, if ever, drift from the task at hand.

Each day, each case, each minute they are working… that is the minute that matters most—that is where they give their all.


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