Autopsy huckster eager for teaching job as Kansas legal troubles mount

By: - November 9, 2020 12:13 pm
Kansas judge orders autopsy scammer Shawn Parcells, currently serving 69 months in federal prison for fraud, to also complete 12-month sentence in Wabaunsee County Jail for criminal desecration. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Kansas judge orders autopsy scammer Shawn Parcells, currently serving 69 months in federal prison for fraud, to also complete 12-month sentence in Wabaunsee County Jail for criminal desecration. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

TOPEKA — Beleaguered by negative publicity and mounting legal problems, Shawn Parcells hopes to have finally landed a job, this time teaching at an online college.

That position may be tenuous.

Parcells, who exaggerated nonexistent medical credentials to perform autopsies and dupe bereaved families into paying for services he never provided, emailed his attorney, Erik Kjorlie, late last month with good news.

“Hey Eric. Look below. Finally somebody believes in my background and ability to teach!” Parcells wrote in the Oct. 20 email.

The email from Rena Espinosa, faculty manager at EDUKAN, offered Parcells a teaching position at the Overland Park-based institution, which partners with Barton, Dodge City, Pratt and Seward County community colleges to provide online classes.

Espinosa expressed alarm when the Kansas Reflector asked about the offer on Monday, saying she wasn’t aware of civil and criminal lawsuits that have been filed against Parcells. Last week, the Kansas Attorney General’s office announced it had found 79 more victims of Parcells.

The state now is seeking restitution for 82 individuals in a Shawnee County civil case, as well as criminal charges in Wabaunsee County for billing the county after not having a real doctor present when he examined bodies.

“If this is what is going on, I will make my decision accordingly,” Espinosa said. “I can’t have a person who is in 79 civil lawsuits and counting teaching on staff as one of my faculty.”

Losing the tenuous job offer would be the latest setback for Parcells, who is blocked by courts from providing services without credentials. He affixes various letter combinations as a title to his name even though they have no corresponding meaning as a degree in any field of healing arts.

In his application letter to Espinosa, Parcells claimed to have “a specialty in teaching human anatomy/physiology both in person and online.” He misspelled Espinosa’s first name and signed his letter with MSHAPI after his name. That credential refers to a certificate in Master of Science in Human Anatomy and Physiology Instruction he received in 2014 from the New York Chiropractic College.

“My love for human anatomy and physiology started at the young age of 6 when my parents bought me an invisible man,” Parcells wrote in his application. “I still have it to this day, and I took my first gross anatomy course while at Kansas State University and was chosen to be on the dissection team and teach the anatomy to my normal lab group. I loved it so much I applied and was selected for teaching as a TA the next semester. Teaching is a love and always will be.”

Parcells earned a degree in life sciences from K-State in 2003 but has never received a medical degree.

Earlier this year, Parcells petitioned the court to let him resurrect his practice so he could sample corpses for coronavirus and provide closure to grieving families. He asserted that he could travel to another state to sidestep court orders and provide his services to families from across the country who had already reached out to him for help.

The court ordered Parcells not to move forward with his plans and to seek permission before leaving the state.

Kjorlie, his Topeka attorney, said Parcells now “has no business endeavors.”

“There is a possible teaching position for which he has applied, however negative press interferes with these possible employments — at least they have in the past,” Kjorlie said.

Parcells provided autopsy services under an assortment of his LLCs for coroner’s offices in Missouri and Kansas, and solicited his services to families online. He received national attention in 2014 when he posed as an expert to examine the body of Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. National news outlets and HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” have scrutinized his work.

Affidavits in the cases filed against Parcells reveal that he misleads public officials and private customers to believe a real medical examiner will perform the examinations for which they are billed.

As part of the legal proceedings, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has taken control of 1,600 “biological samples,” the A.G.’s office said. Some of those samples are small, such as vials of blood, the office said, but “some are larger samples of human tissue.”

The state was working to locate family members and release the samples.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the editor in chief of Kansas Reflector. He writes about things that powerful people don't want you to know. A two-time Kansas Press Association journalist of the year, his award-winning reporting includes stories about education, technology, foster care, voting, COVID-19, sex abuse, and access to reproductive health care. Before founding Kansas Reflector in 2020, he spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He graduated from Emporia State University in 2004, back when the school still valued English and journalism. He was raised in the country at the end of a dead end road in Lyon County.