Kansas civil action results in $764,000 restitution, penalty order against autopsy scammer

Parcells awaits sentencing on desecration, theft and wire fraud convictions

By: and - August 10, 2022 1:33 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 — A Kansan without medical credentials who performed illegal autopsies was ordered by a judge to pay $510,000 in penalties and fees as well as $254,000 in restitution for violating consumer protection laws and other state statutes, the attorney general said Wednesday.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt initiated civil action against Shawn Parcells, 42, and three businesses operated by Parcells based on allegations he performed illegal autopsies.

Parcells didn’t have a degree or credentials in medicine or pathology, but gained national attention in 2014 by assisting, on behalf of the family of the deceased, in an autopsy of Michael Brown, a Black teenager killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. The shooting led to violent and peaceful protests.

In the course of the Kansas’ civil investigation and litigation, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment secured more than 1,700 biological samples collected by Parcells.

“Navigating the loss of a loved one can be difficult enough, but the additional harm created by Shawn Parcells has added to that difficulty,” said Schmidt, the Republican nominee for governor. “Though the resolution of this case does not undo that harm, our hope is that affected family members can now at least properly grieve.”

Parcells, who had lived in Topeka and Leawood, was convicted last year in Wabaunsee County on three counts of felony theft and three misdemeanor counts of criminal desecration for autopsy services. In May, he entered a guilty plea in federal court to one count of wire fraud.

The state’s civil case filed in 2019 resulted in Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Christopher permanently banning Parcells and his three companies from operating in Kansas. The shuttered businesses are Parcells Forensic Pathology Group, ParCo-Parcells and Company and National Autopsy and Tissue Recovery Services.

Christopher’s order blocked Parcells from engaging in regulated businesses involved in the healing arts, including any COVID-related services.

The court required Parcells to pay $254,000 in restitution to 82 consumers related to private autopsy services.

“It is important to remember that behind all these case details are individuals and family members who have been put in unimaginable circumstances due to Parcells’s conduct,” Schmidt said.

In addition, the judge directed Parcells to pay a $200,000 penalty for violating the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. He was instructed to pay a $200,000 penalty for violating the Kansas False Claims Act in Wabaunsee County. He also was obligated to pay $49,600 in compensation to Wabaunsee County.

Parcells agreed to judgments that further mandated he pay $60,000 in investigative and receivership fees related to the state’s inquiry.

Eric Kjorlie, a Topeka attorney who has represented Parcells, said he was in custody of the U.S. Marshal’s office and held in a federal prison facility in Kansas pending a September sentencing date on the wire fraud charge. He was declared indigent by the U.S. District Court and has been represented by a federal public defender.

“Mr. Parcells has expressed his interest, at least to me, that his hope is that he will be able to obtain in the future his medical certifications and to then provide full and complete restitution ordered by the state and federal court,” Kjorlie said.

The state obtained a court order allowing Parcells’ samples to be cataloged and stored, but that receivership will be brought to a close. A notice on the attorney general’s website will provide families 30 days to submit a request to retrieve samples. For more information, contact the office’s victim services division at (785) 291-3950.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.

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.