January 22, 2021

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Wayne County funeral home sued for cremating body without autopsy

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A family filed a civil lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court after Richard Wahl, a family member who they suspected died of mesothelioma, was cremated without first undergoing an autopsy — preventing them from potential financial compensation.

Mesothelioma is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos, so the family contracted with Shawn Parcells, owner of Topeka, Kansas-based National Autopsy Services, to have a licensed pathologist perform a complete autopsy on Wahl to find out the cause of death. But the lawsuit contends that Parcells’s company did not perform an autopsy and instead had Wahl’s body transported to Molnar Funeral Home in Brownstown Township, where it was cremated.

According to the lawsuit, the Wahl family is “one of hundreds” who never received autopsy reports from Parcells.

“Not only is this a blatant act of neglect, and preying on those who are grieving, Parcells has left our client, and hundreds of others, without medical proof as to the cause of death of their loved ones,” attorney Sam Pietsch of Ven Johnson Law said in a statement. “The Wahls lost Richard and now have no chance of any financial compensation from a potential mesothelioma diagnosis.”

According to the lawsuit, Parcells, of Leawood, Kansas, has no formal medical education, though he worked as a pathology assistant for Missouri’s Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office from 1996 to 2003 before opening National Autopsy Services, in Topeka, where he provided private autopsy services for an upfront fee of $3,000, plus expenses.

Parcells is under indictment for falsely leading the Wahl family and hundreds of others to believe that they would receive autopsy reports performed by licensed pathologists. On Nov. 18, the U.S. Attorney’s Office-Kansas District issued a wire fraud indictment against Parcells seeking to recover more than $1 million in fees paid to Parcells by more than 375 victims who never received pathology.

If convicted, Parcells could face up to 20 years in prison, plus a fine up to $250,000 for each count.

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