LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - A third former Lubbock County employee with the medical examiner’s office has come forward with allegations surrounding the company hired to run the office.
Logan Kuss said he started working at the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Office on January 8, 2016 and resigned on December 27, 2018.
“I just couldn’t be a party to it anymore,” Kuss said.
He said procedures for autopsies changed drastically when Dr. Sridhar Natarajan retired as the chief medical examiner in the summer of 2018 and the county brought in National Autopsy Assay Group Pathology Labs to run the office.
NAAG employs Dr. Sam Andrews, who acts as Lubbock County’s Chief Medical Examiner.
NAAG’s CEO, Dr. Evan Matshes, who is not licensed in Texas, told KCBD in an October 2018 interview that he occasionally visits the Lubbock office to help with administrative duties.
“Everything was really, really good until the babies started coming in, and then we were doing things I’d never seen before,” said Logan Kuss.
“The first baby homicide that came in, they ended up taking, the spinal cord, eyes, heart and lung, brains, pieces of the femur, they took some of the bones from the hands, they took some of the fingers and toes, and I’ve never seen this whatsoever. That was so far out of the norm, that it was like, wait a minute there was a bit of a red flag there," Kuss said.
Kuss said under this new management, the office started taking more cases that he believes Natarajan would not have accepted.
“If it’s clearly natural, it’s just not a case. It wastes our time, it wastes the tax payers’ money, but they are bringing in these children that very, very much were natural," Kuss said. He said the children had died from, “meningitis, they had documented RSV and things like that and they are also taking eyes, the brain, the heart and lungs, the spinal cord, that seems to be normal for them,” Kuss said.
In the meningitis case, Kuss said the child had retinal hemorrhaging, which can be associated to aggressive meningitis. Kuss said it can also be a sign of trauma, so staff completed an autopsy to ensure no abuse had occurred. Kuss said they reported their findings, which showed no sign of abuse, to law enforcement.
“Both Matshes and Andrews told them (law enforcement) there was no trauma, no sign of abuse nothing like that, but not to worry because this autopsy should have been done whether or not there was any allegation of child abuse or anything like that because the work up they will do in San Diego with these organs (the brain, the heart, the lungs, the eyes and the spinal cord) were going to be put towards research that would help other pathologists in the future determine what was shaken baby syndrome. The research thing really, really got me. We kept getting kids and it got harder and harder for me to stomach knowing what they were doing this for," Kuss said.
Kuss, along with a couple of other former county employees, have come forward with allegations that NAAG is taking tissues and organs not necessarily needed to determine the cause of death in a case and using them for personal research.
It is an opinion Kuss reiterated in an affidavit the KCBD Investigates Team obtained from a Lubbock law firm.
“I witnessed excessive autopsy practices on at least four children,” Kuss wrote. “I heard Dr. Matshes state that ‘This autopsy needed to be done. The specimens and organs that we’re collecting on this case will be used for research to help facilitate other pathologists in determining causes of death related to shaken baby syndrome.’”
Kuss also brought up a concern regarding Matshes’ role in the autopsy suite.
“Dr. Matshes did not have a Texas Medical License and was trying to act as if he was only participating as a morgue tech, but he was providing training, giving opinions, and providing directions for Dr. Andrews’ report. He performed the evisceration on the baby, and went well beyond what would be expected of a morgue tech. Dr. Matshes was directing the autopsy and acting as a physician,” Kuss wrote.
“The ethical line is being toed very, very, very closely with these people,” Kuss said.
County officials said because of the pending Texas Rangers investigation, they cannot comment on the allegations. However, before the Lubbock County District Attorney’s Office called for the investigation, the KCBD Investigates Team did sit down with county officials who said Matshes had not performed any autopsies in Lubbock and that no tissues or organs were sent to NAAG’s lab for personal research.