Lubbock County Commissioner responds to criminal allegations filed by medical examiner

The Texas Medical Board is investigation the Lubbock County Medical Examiner's Office and its...
The Texas Medical Board is investigation the Lubbock County Medical Examiner's Office and its chief medical examiner.
Updated: Feb. 19, 2019 at 9:14 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - An ongoing dispute between the Lubbock County Medical Examiner and a recently-installed county commissioner has resulted in a criminal complaint.

The KCBD Investigates Team has learned Lubbock County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Sam Andrews has made criminal allegations against a Lubbock County commissioner.

Precinct 2 County Commissioner Jason Corley, who took office in January, said he received notice of the complaint Friday, Feb. 15, weeks after Andrews sent the email to county officials.

On January 30, Andrews sent an email to Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish and copied two Lubbock County civil attorneys, Lubbock County District Attorney Sunshine Stanek, Precinct 1 Lubbock County Commissioner Bill McKay, and the National Association of Medical Examiners.

In the email, Andrews said for several weeks, he had been the subject of ongoing and worsening harassment and abuse by Corley.

“I believe that Mr. Corley has wantonly and knowingly, and with malicious intent, made defamatory statements about me, the medical examiner’s office, and the NAAG Pathology Labs PC, and that he has done so to undermine my authority, and influence the functions of my office," Andrews wrote.

“With respect, I submit to you a formal complaint that Commissioner Corley is violating Texas Penal Code Chapter 38 (Obstructing Governmental Operation), as well as Chapters 36 &39 of the Texas Ethics Commission, specifically, obstruction of official power (.36.06) and official oppression (39.03),” Andrews wrote.

“There’s some pretty ridiculous allegations on there against me. Some of those being that I’ve been harassing our current medical examiner. I find this laughable as I have spoken to him in person one time, I’ve been to his office twice and tried to contact him by email twice to which I received no response,” Corley said.

Corley said he visited with Andrews days after taking office to confront him about allegations surrounding the medical examiner’s office and the company running it, San Diego based National Autopsy Assay Group Pathology Labs (NAAG).

As KCBD reported last year, a major shakeup took place at the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Office during the summer and fall of 2018.

The longtime chief medical examiner, Dr. Sridhar Natarajan, announced his retirement in August. In September, county commissioners signed a year-long contract with NAAG to run the office.

MORE: KCBD Investigates: Exclusive Interview with former Lubbock County Chief Medical Examiner on backlog of cases

MORE: Continuing coverage of Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s office

During this transition, the majority of Lubbock County employees at the medical examiner’s office were let go, and replaced with NAAG personnel.

Dr. Evan Matshes is the CEO of NAAG and employs the new Lubbock County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Sam Andrews.

As NAAG moved into the office, allegations of unethical and illegal activity began.

“What I had been told was that excessive amounts of tissues were being harvested from bodies, specifically from children and this was not the normal method of making a diagnosis; that this was removal of entire organs and the method of which they were being stored would imply they were being kept for research,” Corley said.

Corley said sources believe Matshes may need organs and tissues for personal research, after learning he had published academic articles regarding shaken baby syndrome, including a 2011 article titled, “Shaken Infants Die of Neck Trauma, Not Brain Trauma," which was published in Academic Forensic Pathology.

“Two sources had stated that to me that they were specifically told by Dr. Andrews and Dr. Matshes that they would be using those tissues for research, excuse me, that they had overheard this in conversation," Corley said.

“I was concerned about some of the allegations that were being made, so I went to see Dr. Andrews personally and discuss this with him and express my concerns. I told him that I wanted to be able to reassure my voters that this was not going on in Lubbock County, so therefore I wanted to be present on all autopsies on minors,” Corley said.

It is a request Andrews addressed in his complaint, writing, "And, perhaps the most alarming (and frankly disturbing), Mr. Corley has demanded to be present at my office anytime an infant or child has died so that he can see their deceased remains. There is no legitimate reason for Mr. Corley to see deceased children who are naked and undergoing examination in our office. In that regard, he has been banned from attending all autopsies.”

“I have no desire to witness the autopsy of a child and I don’t believe anyone does. However, with the allegations that being made, somebody has to ensure this is not going on in Lubbock County. The county commissioner’s court does have oversight over the medical examiner’s office. So, if not the commissioners then who?” Corley said. “I am not going to sit by and watch something like this go on. I cannot even begin to imagine the grief that would be felt by these parents to lose a child and then to find out their body had their organs harvested for research.”

The KCBD Investigates Team attempted to speak with NAAG about these allegations, but the county told us that NAAG employees are prohibited from speaking with the media without the county’s consent.

We are told it is in the contract the county has with NAAG, a contract the KCBD Investigates Team requested to see but we were denied.

Instead, Attorney Neal Burt, Civil Division Chief for Lubbock County, emailed us a statement from Andrews that reads, “I am writing to state that we only retain tissues from autopsies for strictly forensic reasons, in accordance with accepted practice standards. We do not, have not, and will not retain tissues for research purposes."

After learning about the Andrews’ email alleging criminal acts, Corley sent an email of his own, writing, “There have been multiple deceased young children from whom NAAG, Dr. Matshes, and Dr. Andrews have harvested excessive tissue, without forensic justification. Dr. Matshes has made statements indicating that he is motivated by a desire to conduct research using the tissue he is harvesting from these deceased children, and such research is consistent with his past academic work.”

Corley said there are also allegations that Matshes performed autopsies in Lubbock County without a Texas medical license.

“On August 14, 2018, when the remains of two deceased children were received by the Lubbock ME, Dr. Matshes performed the autopsies, while not being licensed to practice medicine in the state. He performed the evisceration and was photographed doing so. After being confronted with the photos and the issue of the unlicensed practice, he retrospectively claimed he was training the others present (including Dr. Andrews) on how he wanted the autopsies performed under NAAG. He stated his opinions and gave Dr. Andrews directions about what to put in Dr. Andrews’ report," Corley wrote in his email to county officials in response to Andrews’ allegations.

The KCBD Investigates Team asked Burt about the allegation of Matshes performing autopsies with a license.

Burt said he confirmed with Matshes that he was showing morgue technicians the correct way to perform an autopsy, but was not performing one himself.

The KCBD Investigates Team also checked with the Texas Medical Board who confirms while Matshes has applied for a Texas medical license, he does not have one at this time.

Corley said the allegation of practicing medicine without a license and the photographs called into question are what sparked the investigations by the Texas Medical Board and the Texas Rangers.

“The conduct of NAAG, Sam Andrews, and Evan Matshes justifies terminating the contract with NAAG and finding a new M.E.,” Corley said.

The KCBD Investigates Team reached out to Lubbock County District Attorney Sunshine Stanek about the allegations into the medical examiner’s office, its staff and Corley.

Stanek said she cannot comment while a Texas Rangers investigation is underway.

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