Kansas Self-Taught Pathology Assistant Sentenced for Illegal Autopsy Scheme

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Kansas’ self-taught pathology assistant was sentenced Monday to almost six years for wire fraud.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Shawn Parcells, 42 pleaded guilty to wire fraud in May. According to the Topeka Capital Journal, nine additional fraud charges were dropped in the plea deal.

The Topeka native was an untrained pathology assistant and self-taught. According to court records Parcells, the owner of National Autopsy Services convinced a client that he would pay $5,000 for an autopsy by a professional pathologist. Parcells performed the autopsy, according to an emailed report. Parcells could not perform an autopsy without the help of a qualified pathologist.

Daniel Crabtree, U.S. District Judge, ordered Parcells to pay more than $60,000 in restitution. Parcells will be released after three years of supervised freedom.

The court documents stated that the court recommended defendant be assigned to Leavenworth, Kansas and that he participates on the defendant’s behalf in the Residential Drug Abuse Program.

Duston Slinkard, U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas, stated that “It’s troubling whenever crime victims deceitfully present themselves as professionals to commit fraudulent acts on unwitting victims, but the fact Parcells’ schemes were predicated on exploiting the grief or bereavement of other people makes his act a particularly predatory criminal.”

Parcells became famous in 2014 after he was hired by a professional pathologist to do an autopsy on Michael Brown, the young man who was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer.

Parcells claimed to be a forensic pathology specialist at the time. CNN criticized Parcells after an investigation into Parcells background revealed his lack of professional training.

CNN reported that Andrew County, Missouri hired Parcells for an autopsy of Robert Forrester (74), who was pronounced dead from brain bleeding. Parcells admitted that he conducted the examination without a professional pathologist.

Because the autopsy report was not done by a professional, it was used against Forrester’s suspected murderer. The suspect was therefore released.

According to the Associated Press Parcells earned over $1.1million from 2016 to 2019, from roughly 350 clients for autopsies. Court records show that Parcells didn’t perform the majority of the autopsies.

Parcells was convicted in 2019 of six counts of criminal desecration, including three felonies.

Parcells was banned from doing business in Kansas in August 2022 and sentenced to more than $500,000 for performing illegal autopsies. Parcells was also ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution for 82 of his clients.