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‘It’s Troubling Whenever Criminals Deceptively Present Themselves as Professionals’: Topeka Man Connected to Mike Brown Case Sentenced for Performing Illegal Autopsies

A Kansas man who was hired privately to perform an autopsy of Michael Brown in 2014 has been sentenced for committing wire fraud. The self-taught pathology assistant was convicted for unlawfully creating medical reports and emailing them to his clients.

On Monday, Sept. 19, the Department of Justice sentenced Shawn Parcells to six years in prison for one count of wire fraud. The 42-year-old accepted the prosecution’s plea deal in May, an offer that dropped nine out of ten fraud counts from the Topeka resident’s charges, according to The Associated Press.

By pleading guilty to the charges, Parcells admits to running an illegal autopsy scheme through his company, National Autopsy Services, and “in many cases…failed to provide an authentic completed report.”

Court records show clients trusted Parcells’ services despite his lack of formal training, with one person paying $5,000 for an autopsy without the report was invalid.

Parcells emailed the autopsy report to the client, but it was deemed illegal because it appeared to be authored by him and not a licensed pathologist.

Eight years ago, Parcells rose to national attention after he was hired as an assistant in the autopsy Brown’s family obtained as they sought justice for the unarmed 18-year-old Missourian fatally shot on Aug. 9, 2014, by a white officer from the Ferguson Police Department.

While no scrutiny or allegations of wrongdoing were associated with the Brown family’s autopsy, Parcells received frequent critique for his multiple press appearances as an expert, despite having no certification or training.

As a result of his notoriety between 2016 and 2019, Parcells, who ran three different companies offering this service made over $1.1 million from 350 clients requesting autopsies, all in the state of Kansas. Court records said most of the reports were not done by him.

Now, Parcells is banned from “providing unlawful autopsy services” in the state and has been ordered to pay over $700,000 in restitution and fines for the crimes committed in Kansas.

The sentencing report said U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree recommended Parcells “be designated to the facility at Leavenworth, Kansas, and that he participates in the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) on defendant’s request.”

His term will be followed, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal, by three years of supervised release.

He has also been ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution, paying an average of $3,048 to the 82 people he defrauded over the years.

U.S. Attorney Duston Slinkard said, “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.”

Charles Dayoub, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Kansas City, Missouri, field office said in a statement, “Today’s sentencing sends a clear message — the FBI will hold those accountable who use deception and fraud to take advantage of others in our community.”

This is supported by another conviction of the 1998 Topeka West High graduate on similar charges.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt brought charges up against Parcells in 2019 for conducting illegal autopsies. In November 2021, he was convicted of three felonies and three misdemeanors connected to providing these types of services in Wabaunsee County.

In the most recent case, the prosecution revealed that because of operating as a pathologist, Parcells collected 1,600 biological samples (the majority of human tissue). Those samples have been secured by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and will be available to the associated families to collect up until Thursday, Oct. 6.

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