Shawn Lynn Parcells, 42, of Topeka, was sentenced to five years and nine months after pleading guilty to wire fraud connected to performing illegal autopsies. The U.S. Department of Justice said Parcell used his business National Autopsy Services LLC to “obtain fees from more than 350 clients for a total amount of $1,166,000,” the DOJ said Monday. “In many cases, the defendant failed to provide an authentic completed report.”
In May, Parcells pleaded guilty to the count of wire fraud. As part of a plea deal, nine other fraud charges were dropped. In that case, he used false credentials to convince a client he was qualified to conduct an autopsy, the DOJ said. Parcells was paid $5,000 for an autopsy report he emailed to a client, but no pathologist was involved in preparing the report, which is illegal.
In summer 2014, Parcells gained notoriety when he assisted in an autopsy in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri. He claimed to be a pathology expert, appeared on TV regularly, and said he testified in court dozens of times. In fact, Parcells has no formal education in pathology, which was uncovered in an investigation that aired in November that year. He claimed to be an adjunct professor at Washburn University, which the school denied.
Parcells said he learned how to do autopsies from “on-the-job training,” observing and assisting pathologists at morgues. Officials interviewed said that Parcells had misrepresented himself as a doctor. “If they want to think I’m a doctor, that’s their issue,” Parcells told reporters. “People assume stuff all the time. And they may never ask. It’s bad that they’re assuming and that they never asked. If they want to think I’m a physician, then more power to them.”
In another case in 2019, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt also charged Parcells with conducting illegal autopsies. The AG alleged that Parcells contracted with Wabaunsee County and didn’t complete them, including having a licensed pathologist present. Last month, a Kansas county district judge in August banned Parcells permanently from doing business in the state and ordered him to pay more than $250,000 in restitution to 82 clients. “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,” said a release from the Kansas Attorney General’s office.