Ghoulish allegations of harvesting organs from deceased children in Texas without consent of families has sparked a criminal investigation and lawsuit against a pair of former Calgary medical examiners.Dr. Sam Andrews and Dr. Evan Matshes, who both quit the Calgary medical examiner’s office in March 2011, were named last week in a $1-million lawsuit by a former employee of Lubbock County’s coroner’s office, who accused the duo, and their California-based pathology company NAAG Pathology Labs, of firing her after she raised concerns about inappropriately harvesting organs and tissue from children without informing their families.According to the lawsuit, filed last Wednesday in the state’s 72nd District Court, former Lubbock medical examiner’s office worker Tita Senee Graves alleges Matshes removed organs and tissue from children during autopsies and sent them to National Autopsy Assay Group (NAAG) in San Diego. She also accused Matshes of performing the procedures without a licence to practise medicine in Texas, as well as telling staff that he needed to collect more tissue from children than in the past for “research.”NAAG Pathology Labs has denied any wrongdoing.At a news conference last week, Graves told local media she was horrified at the new direction taken by the former Calgary pathologists, who allegedly told staff when they took over the office late last year that they needed to collect organ and tissue samples from children who died naturally to create a control group for research into fatal abuse cases.“On these children, it didn’t matter what the cause of death was. They took the brains, the spinal cords, the spinal columns from the neck, sometimes parts of ribs, sometimes parts of legs, the heart, the lungs, the eyeballs — all shipped to San Diego,” she told reporters.“When you’re doing it on children that you don’t need to have the tissues they’re taking to determine the cause of death, it’s not right in any sense of the word.”Attorney Kevin Glasheen, who’s representing Graves, said in addition to the financial award, the lawsuit is also calling on the county to let her return to work.“Ms. Graves is a hero for exposing these California body snatchers who have taken over the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Office,” he said in a news release.“Of course, they immediately fired her for doing so — and now we are going to make them pay.”
Dr. Sam Andrews, photographed at his Calgary office in 2009 when he was assistant medical examiner.
Lt. Bryan Witt with the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed to Postmedia that Texas Rangers, who investigate major crimes in the state, are investigating Lubbock’s medical examiner’s office, but declined to discuss details.“I would not be able to discuss any of the facts surrounding the case due to it being an ongoing investigation but I can confirm that the Texas Rangers are investigating allegations made against the Lubbock Medical Examiner’s Office at the request of the Lubbock County District Attorney’s Office,” Witt wrote in an email Monday.“Once the Rangers complete the investigation, all investigative findings will be turned over to the Lubbock County District Attorney’s Office.”Local media report the Texas Medical Board is also investigating the allegations.A statement released by NAAG on Tuesday expressed confidence in Andrews, who was named chief medical examiner for the county last year, while denying the allegations, none of which has been proven.“Both Dr. Andrews and NAAG Pathology Labs strive to carry out all of their services according to the highest of national and international standards,” the statement read.“We strongly deny that either NAAG Pathology Labs or Dr. Andrews have acted in any manner that is contrary to the best interest of the public. NAAG Pathology Labs stands behind the work of Dr. Andrews, and we will vigorously defend against every allegation that has been made. We are confident that we will be exonerated of all claims of wrongdoing.”When reached at their corporate offices in San Diego on Tuesday, the company, which also purports to have a Canadian office just west of Calgary, did not make anyone immediately available to comment.Matshes remains embroiled in a $30-million lawsuit, filed in 2014, against both the Alberta government and former Alberta chief medical examiner Dr. Anny Sauvageau, charging both with conspiring to ruin his career by spreading false information about him.Shortly after his departure, Matshes’ work during his 13 months serving in Calgary’s medical examiner’s office had been called into question, prompting an investigation by Alberta Justice into 14 of his cases, which found his conclusions “unreasonable” in 13 of them. However, a Court of Queen’s Bench judge would later quash the panel’s findings after determining the process used was unfair and the investigators were given incomplete information.According to an online biography, Matshes, a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, is “actively involved in Pediatric Forensic Pathology research, teaching and publishing. He developed a new conceptual model and approach to inflicted head trauma in infants.”News of the chilling allegations have been particularly devastating for Odessa, Texas resident Alyssa Hammontree, who learned this week that her son, Zaydrian — whose death last August is alleged to be a case of fatal child abuse that resulted in a capital murder charge for Marqalo Divonte Flores — may have been one of two children whose cases of inappropriate removal of organs were outlined in the lawsuit.
Two-year-old Zaydrian Guerra of Odessa, TX died in August 2018 and is one of the children alleged to have had organs and tissue removed without the consent of family members by the Lubbock County Medical Examiners Office. A pair of former Calgary pathologists are named in a $1 million lawsuit. Photo supplied by family
Hammontree told Postmedia on Tuesday that after her two-year-old son’s death, she signed an organ donor card allowing his heart, liver and kidneys to be donated. But she explicitly declined to allow any of her only son’s remains to be used for research purposes when she was asked to sign forms in the hospital.“I just wanted him to rest in peace, but to know about this on top of how he died is horrible,” said Hammontree, who described Zaydrian as a smart and loving boy who loved water balloon fights and Paw Patrol.“I was throwing up all over the place when I found out.”She said she has retained a lawyer and is contemplating legal action, while she continues to wait for the results of an autopsy that was performed seven months ago.Given the ongoing legal battle with Matshes, the province’s justice and attorney general’s office declined to comment on the latest allegations, nor address whether it is aware of any similar accusations that would have occurred during his time in Calgary.During his 13 months in Calgary, Matshes conducted 426 death investigations, including 262 autopsies and 164 external exams.“As Dr. Matshes work and employment practices falls under the scope of the current litigation between Dr. Matshes and the Government of Alberta (this case is before the courts), we cannot comment further,” the ministry said in a email@example.comOn Twitter: @ShawnLogan403