Court decision upheld against man accused of defrauding families in mourning

TOPEKA, Kan. Early this month, Eyewitness News told you about a Wichita-area man who, nearly two years ago, paid a man claiming to be a "forensic pathology expert" $3,000 to conduct an autopsy on his wife and help answer questions about her sudden death.

Larry Windholz still hasn't received the autopsy report because the temporary restraining order against Shawn Parcells remains in effect.

Parcells faces three counts of theft and three counts of criminal desecration of a body. He's also being sued by the Kansas attorney general and Kansas Board of Healing Arts, accused of being unqualified to conduct autopsies.

He's accused of taking thousands of dollars from grieving families and never giving them the answers he promised. The Kansas attorney general, the Better Business Bureau and families across the United States call Parcells a scam artist.

And as allegations against Parcells have come to light in recent months through the court system and news coverage, Windholz and others claiming to be victims of Parcells, have come together through social media.

"To date, we have 34 that have come forward in 29 different states," says Lacey Langford, in court in Topeka Friday for a hearing in Parcells' case. Langford says her family became a victim of Parcells after her mother's death.

By her side in the courtroom was Rhonda Truby. Parcells was supposed to do an autopsy on her friend's teenage son. He hasn't done so.

"I'm heartbroken because they'll never have answers as to what happened to their 19-year-old son," Truby says.

The Kansas Attorney General's Office won't even call Parcells a pathologist's assistant, saying under Kansas law, he's not qualified. The word "autopsy" was written in quotes in court documents pertaining to Parcells' case.

During a court recess Friday, Parcells showed Eyewitness News his lab at the headquarters for National Autopsy Services in Topeka,

"Everyone's remains that we've done autopsies on, that we've taken samples from, are here," Parcells said in his lab.

Stuck in the lab are unanswered questions for families who no longer trust him.

"We're trying to tell the judge, 'Give us a chance to fix the past, finish the cases that are not finished yet," he says.

Parcells admits that he "got late on reports" and wants to make it right. The problem is the state thinks he never should have been allowed to start the work in the first place.

A judge this week upheld a temporary restraining order against Parcells, preventing him from conducting autopsies, forensic pathology or tissue recovery in the state while both a civil lawsuit and a criminal case are pending.

Parcells disputes the claim that he's not qualified to do the work with training as a pathologist's assistant.

According to the American Association of Pathologists' Assistants, the schooling to become a P.A. changed about 2010, from on-the-job training to training at an accredited school.

Parcells calls the exam tied to accreditation "voluntary" and not necessary to do the job.

He says the PA's he knows of are not certified and this is how the industry works.

Kansas law says pathologists' assistants have to work under the supervision of a physician. Many questions will be hashed out in court, including, who was supervising Parcells? Where was the supervisor licensed? And, what does supervision even mean in terms of its legal definition?

Parcells says he doesn't want his case to come down to a court decision forcing him to move his business from Kansas and he says he wants the families he's wronged to get the answers they seek.

Among those families, Langford is skeptical.

"He's never meant well. He has no credentials to mean well," she says. "And that's where it's at."

In court Friday the judge said he wished he could put a nationwide block on Parcells' autopsy work, but he doesn't have the power. Parcells says he does have active cases going on in other states.