Newport News woman has waited over a year for mother’s autopsy results


NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A Newport News woman contacted 10 On Your Side for help. She lost her mom last year and had a private company do an autopsy. A year later, she still doesn’t have the report.

“It’s been a little more than a year,” said Newport News resident Katrina Gay. “I miss her. She was my best friend. I miss her laugh. I miss talking to her. We would have dinner once a week.”

Those dinners came to an end May 23, 2018, when Johanna passed away. She was only 66.

“It was rough seeing my mom like that, because she has always been a strong person.”

Doctors believe Johanna died of respiratory failure, but Gay wondered what made her sick.

“Since she was fairly young,” Gay said. “I just wanted some answers to what happened. I just wanted the cause exactly.”

In the quest for those answers, Gay hired a private company to do an autopsy.

“They were recommended. Supposedly they are a really good national company. They do a lot of private autopsies.”

Gay paid Kansas-based National Autopsy Services $3,000. Two months after her mom’s death, the company came to Newport News to do the autopsy.

“They did their usual process for an autopsy, and they let me know they’ve completed it and I would receive a report within a hundred days,” Gay said. 

100 days turned into almost 365 days, and still no report. Contact with company owner Shawn Parcells hit a wall.

“After he emailed me back and said he would send it, it still has been three months later and there is no report,” she added. “I have sent him more emails that have gone unanswered. I have left more voicemails that have gone unanswered.”

Carrying a burden of questions, Gay reached out to 10 On Your Side. We started searching for National Autopsy Services and Shawn Parcells, and what we found was alarming.

Parcells has been in the news all over the country. There are families claiming the same thing as Gay. There are cases of no reports after autopsies, or autopsies never performed at all.

Parcells admits he is not a pathologist. The Kansas Attorney General calls Parcells a self taught pathology assistant. In March, the Attorney General filed both criminal and civil charges against him for doing autopsies in a small county there.

The AG says it’s state law that an autopsy be done by a pathologist, and says Parcells has no formal pathology education. Our sister station in Kansas recently talked with Parcells about his mounting legal trouble.

“I had pathologists working with me, but some of them weren’t even in state,” Parcells said. “Some of them were out of state, which is perfectly legal.”

The AG doesn’t see it that way. Also in March, a court order was filed, temporarily banning Parcells for doing in autopsies in the state. There is now a backlog of cases in his Topeka lab, autopsies he is not able to finish.

“At no time did I ever set out to defraud or take people’s money,” Parcells added.

We reached out to Parcells by phone and text. Late Friday, we received a series of emails from him. He said he had a contractor do the Gay autopsy, and he had hoped to have the report out by late last year. He tells us that’s when he got sick and was in the hospital. He planned on getting it out earlier this year, but says he couldn’t because of the attorney general’s temporary ban.  

“It’s not even about the money for me,” Gay said. “I just want the answers. I really want to know what happened to her. Would you want to be treated this way if it was your family member?”

Residents of Virginia may file a consumer complaint with the Kansas AG. Whether The AG’s office has jurisdiction is a factual question that will need to be determined upon review of the evidence.

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