Kansas man sentenced to more than 5 years for performing illegal autopsies

Sep 21, 2022, 11:16 AM

Shawn Parcells is seen at a news conference in St. Louis County, Missouri, in August 2014, nine day...

Shawn Parcells is seen at a news conference in St. Louis County, Missouri, in August 2014, nine days after Michael Brown was killed by a policeman in Ferguson. Parcells was sentenced to more than 5 years for performing illegal autopsies. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

(Jeff Roberson/AP)

(CNN) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to five years and nine months after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud connected to performing an illegal autopsy, the US Department of Justice said.

Shawn Lynn Parcells, 42, of Topeka, used his business National Autopsy Services LLC to “obtain fees from more than 350 clients for a total amount of $1,166,000,” according to court documents, the DOJ said in a release Monday. “In many cases, the defendant failed to provide an authentic completed report.”

In the case he pleaded guilty to in May, Parcells used false credentials to convince a client he was qualified to conduct an autopsy, the DOJ said in a release. Parcells received $5,000 and gave the client an emailed copy of a final report that appeared to be written by Parcells, but no pathologist took part in the exam or report, the release said.

Parcells garnered national media attention after assisting in an autopsy commissioned by the family of Michael Brown, the young Black man fatally shot by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer in 2014, appearing repeatedly on major news outlets as a forensic pathology expert.

“It’s troubling whenever criminals deceptively present themselves as professionals to commit fraud on unwitting victims, but the fact that Parcells’ schemes were predicated upon exploiting the grief and bereavement of others, makes his act a particularly predatory crime,” US Attorney Duston Slinkard said in this week’s release.

Parcells in 2014 told CNN he sometimes performed autopsy procedures without a physician present, and said that was legal as long as he’s under a doctor’s supervision and the doctor signs off on the report.

At the time, Parcells didn’t claim to have any specific license or certification to do the work he did and said he knew how to do autopsies from “on-the-job training,” watching pathologists and assisting them at various morgues. Parcells told CNN he had sometimes been paid for this work and sometimes he wasn’t.

A Kansas county district judge in August banned Parcells permanently from doing business and ordered him to pay more than $250,000 in restitution “related to providing unlawful autopsy services,” according to a release from the Kansas Attorney General’s office.

“He is required to comply with all Kansas statutes that regulate any profession, and is prohibited from using any titles or initials that include professions in the healing arts or any other profession for which he is not educated, certified or qualified,” the release said.

In response to a CNN request for comment, Parcells’ attorney, David Magariel, referred to the sentencing memo filed earlier this month. In the memo, the defense said most of those sentenced with a similar criminal history as Parcells in the District of Kansas received less than 24 months.

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Kansas man sentenced to more than 5 years for performing illegal autopsies