Lawsuit: Former Lubbock Medical Examiner’s Office employee exposes ‘California body snatchers’

FULL NEWS CONFERENCE: Former Lubbock County Medical Examiner files lawsuit against office

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Former Lubbock County employee, Senee Graves has filed an employment lawsuit against NAAG Pathology Labs, PC, Dr. Evan Matshes and Dr. Sam Andrews of the Lubbock Medical Examiner’s Office. According to her attorneys, Graves was fired after she observed and reported potentially illegal and suspicious activity within the Medical Examiner’s Office – including autopsies performed by an unlicensed physician, and concerns over shipping excessive numbers of body parts to NAAG’s lab in California for research purposes.

Lawsuit filed against Medical Examiner's Office

Even though Ms. Graves was employed by Lubbock County, the county allowed the contracted doctors to terminate her employment. In her lawsuit, Graves seeks monetary damages that would make her whole, and damages to punish NAAG, Dr. Matshes, and Dr. Andrews for their actions.

In addition, she has submitted a letter to the county asking for commissioners to reinstate her.

Former Lubbock County employee files suit against ME's office

Graves sat down with our KCBD Investigates Team before filing the lawsuit to discuss the allegations and claims that would be addressed in the documents.

Graves said her concerns began shortly after the county brought in Andrews and NAAG to run the office.

She said two out-of-county children were brought in to the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s office for autopsies.

Graves said one child died from suspected abuse and the other died in a home explosion.

“We were instructed that Dr. Matshes was going to be showing us how autopsies were going to be done in the future on all children,” Graves said.

Matshes is the C.E.O. of NAAG and while according to the Texas Medical Board website, he applied for a Texas license in September, he has yet to receive one.

“He (Matshes) also told us that he was not licensed in the State of Texas and so therefore he would be working as a morgue tech to do these things. In my head, I questioned that. When he did that first autopsy, I questioned it,” Graves said.

“So Andrews didn’t actually perform the autopsy?” we asked.

“He assisted a little bit, but it seemed as though he was being shown certain things as well as the morgue techs,” Graves said.

“In my mind, once a doctor always a doctor; you can’t take the hat off," Graves said. “It just didn’t add up and make sense to me.”

Later that day, Graves said she witnessed Matshes perform another autopsy on a child who was the victim of a home explosion.

“He also did one in early October on a child that had meningitis. Those are the only ones that I was aware of,” Graves said.

Graves said she also had concerns about the amount of organs and tissues being preserved and sent to San Diego.

“It did seem like they were taking more than what we were accustomed to seeing," Graves said.

Graves said it did raise red flags, but she thought maybe this new management just had a different standard for autopsies.

"But when they did the same thing on the child in the explosion that they had done for the abuse case, it really raised red flags because you didn’t need that tissue to prove that an explosion had killed her. Why are you taking the same tissues from an abuse case and for an accidental case? It didn’t sit well, ” Graves said.

“And then it was even worse on the baby with meningitis when they knew it was meningitis and yet they took all of these things to San Diego for testing. For, In his (Matshes’) words, ‘we need more for naturals like this research.' So, once he said that, everything from the previous explosion made sense," Graves said.

“So in your professional opinion, the majority of those (organs and tissues) were not needed to determine cause of death?” we asked.

“No, not with what I had seen previously, no,” Graves said.

“He (Matshes) made one comment multiple times that literally made me sick. He said, ‘Oh you should have seen a case I was consulting on as a second opinion not long ago and by the time I was through with that autopsy, you could take what was left of that baby and put it in a cup.' He seemed to enjoy that statement, and it just turned my stomach and everyone else’s that heard it too," Graves said.

“There was a couple that I know of that were having nightmares, they couldn’t eat, they couldn’t sleep. It was as if they were having PTSD type symptoms. One just couldn’t get over it, he quit. The other one worked through it and eventually he quit as well,” Graves said.

Lubbock County Medical Examiner lawsuit - PTSD

Graves said she expressed her concerns to law enforcement and a county commissioner.

“The first thing I did was I talked to another pathologist and he agreed with me. Then later, I talked with a person who works for LPD; that person also agreed with me. Then, first week of January, I talked to one of the commissioners," Graves said.

On Monday, January 14th, Graves said Matshes was in town and confronted her about voicing her complaints.

Graves said she took Tuesday off, and when she came to work on Wednesday, Matshes had returned to San Diego, but she was told she would have a video chat with him later that day.

“But first I needed to write a paragraph as to why I loved my job and wanted to keep it, then the video chat would take place. Once I turned that assignment in, I was given another assignment to answer what am I going to do to change my behavior, why did I display such behavior and why was I mad and that video would happen after I turned that in. I submitted that and no video took place,” Graves said.

The following day, Graves said Andrews fired her.

Attorney Kevin Glasheen is now representing Graves.

“From our perspective, what I am looking at is did Ms. Graves have a reasonable good faith belief that something improper was happening at the medical examiner’s office and did she make appropriate reports to law enforcement about it? Yes, she did. Did they retaliate against her for that and fire her for that reason? Yes, they did. From our perspective, as far as how this investigation turns out and whether these doctors can defend their conduct or not really doesn’t matter because they shouldn’t have fired Ms. Graves from making the reports, but it certainly doesn’t look good and of all places Lubbock County with our history of problems in the medical examiner’s office is hard to believe they have let this happen again," Glasheen said.

Glasheen said they have name NAAG, Matshes and Andrews for tortuous interference with contractual relations because they induced Lubbock County to terminate Graves’ employment.

"We are also asking Lubbock County to reinstate Ms. Graves to her job,” Glasheen said.

In addition to getting her job back, Graves also wants back pay and the contract with NAAG terminated.

“The sooner the better for everyone to heal and get on with normal business for the citizens of Lubbock County and the other counties outside of Lubbock that use the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Office as well,” Graves said.

Lubbock County District Attorney Neal Burt said the county is aware of the lawsuit, but cannot provide a statement at this time due to the Texas Rangers investigation that is underway.

We have asked the county and Andrews about these allegations in the past, and Andrews denied them.

The KBCD Investigates Team did send an e-mail to NAAG and Andrews for a comment on the lawsuit, but never heard back.

Graves also commented on the recent allegations made by Andrews about his predecessor, Dr. Sridhar Natarajan.

At the end of January, Andrews sent an email to Lubbock County District Attorney Sunshine Stanek that he had heard allegations Natarajan took bribes to change the cause of death and showed up to work drunk among other things.

Graves said she has never seen Natarajan intoxicated and had never heard of him taking bribes.

Graves said she believes the allegations are false.

A copy of the lawsuit can be viewed here.

The lawsuit states:

Dr. Matshes gathered the staff to watch as he performed two autopsies on infants. The new protocol required the removal of the children’s brain, eyes, spinal cord, posterior neck, including vertebra, and the heart and lungs, which Dr. Matshes demonstrated on both children. Dr. Matshes stated that he was acting as a “tech”, not a doctor, since was not licensed to practice medicine in Texas. Dr. Matshes made the incisions and removed the organs himself, while Dr. Andrews observed along with the staff.

Ms. Graves worked under Medical Examiner Dr. Natarajan until Lubbock County replaced him in August 2018 with a contract interim Medical Examiner, National Autopsy Assay Group “NAAG”, from San Diego, CA. The NAAG contract Medical Examiner was pathologist Dr. Andrews, who held a Texas Medical License. Dr. Andrews was to fly into Lubbock periodically and perform autopsies.

Immediately after NAAG took over the contract, NAAG began to make changes at the Lubbock Medical Examiner’s Office. Apparently, Lubbock County allowed the contract medical examiner to fire the Lubbock County employees who worked in the medical examiner’s office. The managerial director Honey Smith was fired immediately, and Office Manager Neil Kilcrease PLAINTIFF’S ORIGINAL PETITION Graves v. NAAG Pathology Labs, PC Page 4 of 9 quit within a week. Frank Garcia, Catrina Beights and Kayla Shoenhals were all fired the same day, Kayla by text, in late August.

In August 2018, Dr. Matshes, a Pathologist with NAAG, came to Lubbock with the new interim Medical Examiner Dr. Andrews and explained to the staff that NAAG was starting a new protocol and a new technique for autopsies involving infants and young children. Dr. Matshes stated that he wanted to collect more tissue from those autopsies than had been done in the past, because he needed that tissue for his “research.”

Dr. Matshes gathered the staff to watch as he performed two autopsies on infants. The new protocol required the removal of the children’s brain, eyes, spinal cord, posterior neck, including vertebra, and the heart and lungs, which Dr. Matshes demonstrated on both children. Dr. Matshes stated that he was acting as a “tech”, not a doctor, since was not licensed to practice medicine in Texas. Dr. Matshes made the incisions and removed the organs himself, while Dr. Andrews observed along with the staff.

One of the autopsies was a suspected case of child abuse from Odessa. The other infant autopsy that day was a case where an infant had died after medical care in UMC hospital from burns suffered in a house explosion in Midland. There was no need for such tissue to determine the cause of the burn death.

Ms. Graves, and the other staff were disturbed by the autopsies of the infants. The unnecessary harvesting of body parts for a Pathologist’s personal research interests seemed wrong. An autopsy performed by a physician who was not licensed in Texas seemed wrong.

Ms. Graves took 3 or 4 pictures as evidence that Dr. Matshes was performing the autopsy as an unlicensed PLAINTIFF’S ORIGINAL PETITION Graves v. NAAG Pathology Labs, PC Page 5 of 9 physician. She sent those to another pathologist, Dr. Pustilnik in Houston for his advice. Ms. Graves was familiar with Dr. Pustilnik because he had done some contract work in Lubbock in the past, and Ms. Graves knew him to be a professional and ethical physician, and she wanted his advice and assistance about reporting this information to the appropriate agencies. Ms. Graves deleted the pictures from her phone and did not retain them. She did not send the pictures to anyone else, and she does not know what Dr. Pustilnik did with the pictures.

Later, around late September 2018, Ms. Graves saw Dr. Matshes in an autopsy room where an autopsy was being conducted on an infant who had died from meningitis. As soon as the child’s skull cap was removed, everyone agreed that the cause of death was an obvious case of meningitis. Dr. Matshes then stated that he “needed more naturals like this for research” and directed the staff to take all the tissue outlined in the new protocol. The staff eventually understood that Dr. Matshes was doing research to identify certain markers for child abuse but needed more studies of tissue from infant and children who had died natural deaths, to compare to the tissue from children who had died from abuse, and that was the purpose of the tissue harvest.

Ms. Graves has not sued Lubbock County, but instead has asked them to reinstate her to her position. She is however, asking for monetary relief of more than $1,000,000.

Ms. Graves is represented by attorney Kevin Glasheen of Glasheen, Valles & Inderman.

“Ms. Graves is a hero for exposing these California body snatchers who have taken over the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Office,” said attorney Kevin Glasheen. “Of course, they immediately fired her for doing so – and now we are going to make them pay.”

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