LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Shawn Thomas grew up as an only child, raised on the family’s farm in Acuff.
“Started the cotton farm after WWII. We have been out there and established since after the war. We have always been an agricultural family,” Thomas said.
Thomas said his father, Tony Thomas, was one that wanted to stay on the farm, raising cotton and hogs.
Thomas said he had a busy childhood, showing animals at stock shows, playing baseball, and hunting while juggling schoolwork.
Thomas said his dad made sure he stayed in line.
“He never had to spank me one time. He always knew how to get to me. He would take my guns away is what he would do. He knew I loved shooting. Whenever I was with him, that is what he raised me to do; he raised me to hunt,” Thomas said.
As Thomas grew up, that relationship with his father turned into a friendship.
“He would call, ‘Hey, I need some parts, Shawn, can you bring them to me? And vice versa, if my pick up broke down or didn’t have brakes, he would say, “Get it to the barn, we will get it taken care of,’” Thomas said.
“You lose your friend, a good friend and a guy who has backed you through everything good and bad. You never realize that one day they could be gone. That is the hardest part of all of this,” Thomas said.
In August, Thomas said his dad’s boss called him and said his father hadn’t shown up to work.
“He had been sick, but we thought we had gotten him about where he was over it and just trying to get into the retirement stages of life. You get a call from his boss one day that says he didn’t show up to work. Forty something years of him working, dad would have never no call, no showed,” Thomas said.
Tony had passed away at home.
Thomas said the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Office said it would take a couple of months to get the death certificate.
“Then two months passes, and you don’t want to get mad and you don’t want to get inpatient because you know that you are not the only one with the issues, but from my understanding a natural caused death seems pretty cut and dry,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he called the office again in October and was told it could be more than six months before he received his father’s death certificate.
“It’s not right. I’m not the only one with this issue. There are people who can’t move money around to take care of their day to day bills, their houses, their farms, their taxes, they’ve got crops coming in that need to be taken care of, custom harvesters that need to be paid, animal feed that needs to be bought," Thomas said.
“I’m single, I’m not married. I work off of one salary, so me trying to take care of this financially is becoming a burden. It just seems to me that office is not taking care of business or won’t take care of business,” Thomas said.
Lubbock County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Sam Andrews said when he took over for Dr. Sridhar Natarajan on October 1, he discovered a backlog of 427 cases.
Now county commissioners are working with the medical examiner’s office and the National Autopsy Assay Group to pull resources to complete not only the backlog of cases, but the 40 to 50 new cases coming in every month.
“With those cases that have pre-dated my time here and the time of the NAA Group, we have to look at these cases and do a review. I’m not just going to sign off on them. Professionally, that’s just not honest. I have to make sure the work I am signing off on is accurate,” Andrews said.
Andrews said he is working with the NAA Group to obtain national accreditation through the National Association of Medical Examiners.
Part of that accreditation process includes an ongoing commitment to close 90% of cases within 60 days and then 90% of the remaining cases within 90 days.
Meanwhile for Thomas, a timeline of when he can receive his father’s paperwork, is still unknown.
“It’s to keep me from having to go into debt myself and to keep his legacy going. The hard part at the end of this, I don’t know where I am going to stand. Me being the only one, you just feel like you’re suffocating,” Thomas said.