Kansas man admits to running illegal autopsy scheme, sentenced to nearly 6 years in prison

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A Kansas man who admitted running an illegal autopsy scheme has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison for wire fraud.

Shawn Parcells, 42, who lived in Topeka and Leawood, was sentenced Monday in federal court to one count of wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. He pleaded guilty in May. As part of the plea deal, nine other fraud counts were dropped.

Parcells, a self-taught pathology assistant with no formal education, as owner of National Autopsy Services persuaded a client to pay $5,000 for an autopsy, according to court records. The client received an emailed autopsy report that appeared to be authored by Parcells. No pathologist was involved in the examination or report, which is illegal.

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Parcells gained national attention in 2014 when he assisted a privately hired pathologist in an autopsy of Michael Brown, the unarmed Black 18-year-old from Ferguson, Missouri, who was fatally shot by a white police officer. The autopsy was commissioned by Brown’s family and no allegations of wrongdoing were raised in relation to it. But Parcells’ frequent media appearances led to scrutiny, including a CNN story revealing he had no specific certification or training.

Shawn Parcells, above, a Kansas man who admitted running an illegal autopsy scheme, has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison for wire fraud.

Shawn Parcells, above, a Kansas man who admitted running an illegal autopsy scheme, has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison for wire fraud. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Between 2016 and 2019, Parcells made more than $1.1 million in Kansas from more than 350 clients for autopsies, most of which he did not perform, according to court records.

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Parcells, who ran three companies, was also charged in 2019 by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt with conducting illegal autopsies.

In August, Parcells was banned from doing business in Kansas and ordered to pay more than $700,000 in restitution and fines for the state cases. He was also ordered to pay over $250,000 in restitution to 82 people that used his services.

That came after he was convicted in November of three felonies and three misdemeanors related to providing illegal autopsies in Wabaunsee County.

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Prosecutors discovered that Parcells collected more than 1,600 biological samples, mostly human tissue, as part of the scheme. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment took custody of the samples and victims have until Oct. 6 to claim them.