What is going with the Medical Examiner in Lubbock Texas?

An ongoing dispute between the Lubbock County Medical Examiner and a recently-installed county commissioner has resulted in a criminal complaint.

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.

Lets back up to earlier this month.

Lubbock Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Sam Andrews, who was accused of medical malpractice, along with his predecessor, Sridhar Natarajan, responded Monday, denying the allegations brought against him.

On Feb. 8, the Texas Department of Public Safety said Lubbock district attorney’s office had asked the Texas rangers to launch an investigation into the county’s medical examiner’s office over certain allegations made by an employee in August. The details of the allegations were not made public at the time.

In a memo dated Jan. 30, Andrews wrote to a county judge denying the accusations against him and blaming County Commissioner Jason Corley for interfering with his office.In a memo dated Jan. 30, Andrews wrote to a county judge denying the accusations against him and blaming County Commissioner Jason Corley for interfering with his office.

At a murder trial last week in Travis County, a defense lawyer for a woman accused of fatally shooting her fiance approached the witness stand and began asking questions to an empty chair. The attorney, Brian Erskine, was expressing disbelief that forensic examiner Dr. Sam Andrews did not show up to testify about his autopsy on 37-year-old victim Bradley Sullivan.

It turns out Andrews no longer is welcome in Travis County courtrooms. The district attorney’s office recently decided it will not sponsor his testimony amid an ongoing Texas Rangers and Texas Medical Board investigation into his work at his new job as the chief of the Lubbock County medical examiner’s office.

The basis for the investigation has not been revealed. However, a Lubbock County commissioner might have given hints in a letter to a judge Monday in which he alleged that Andrews had improperly harvested excessive body tissue from deceased children for research. The letter from Commissioner Jason Corley to County Judge Curtis Parrish also states that another doctor in Andrews’ office, Evan Matshes, had performed autopsies despite not being licensed to practice medicine in Texas. Similar allegations are outlined in a lawsuit against Andrews and Matshes by a former employee of the medical examiner’s office.

Before taking the Lubbock job in October, Andrews was a deputy medical examiner in Travis County for more than three years and performed autopsies that guided detectives and prosecutors to form theories about how someone might have died.

Travis County spokesman Hector Nieto said Wednesday that the Rangers and the Texas Medical Board have not reached out to Travis County about the investigation into Andrews.

Andrews did not return a message from the American-Statesman on Wednesday. A message left with the National Autopsy Assay Group, where Andrews and Matshes are on staff, was not returned either. The group is contracted to perform autopsies in Lubbock County, according to the commissioner’s letter.

There is no reason, at least for now, to believe Andrews botched any autopsies while he was working in Travis County, District Attorney First Assistant Mindy Montford said.

Montford said she reached out to prosecutors in her office and determined that Andrews had conducted an autopsy in roughly 10 pending cases. But in all but two, Montford said, the cause of death could not be reasonably disputed by the defense.

Meanwhile former employees of the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Office employee is suing a California-based pathology company she claims got her fired after she complained about possible illegal activity by her bosses.

Tita Senee Graves filed a tortious interference lawsuit Wednesday in the 72nd District Court seeking more than $1 million in damages against the National Autopsy Assay Group, Dr. Sam Andrews and Dr. Evan Matshes.

She claims NAAG, a private company hired by the county in September to provide pathology services headed by Andrews and Matshes, caused the county to fire her on Jan. 17 for complaining to police and county officials about what she called unethical and illegal new practices at the ME’s office involving the autopsying of children.

Grave’s attorney, Kevin Glasheen, said he is requesting the county reinstate Graves immediately.

The lawsuit describes Andrews and Matshes as agents or employees of NAAG. However, Andrews has been Lubbock County’s chief medical examiner since Oct. 1, replacing Dr. Sridhar Natarajan who left on Aug. 16.

Lubbock County Commissioners in September also hired NAAG Pathology Labs to provide full-time pathology services, according to A-J archives. Andrews leads NAAG Pathology Labs’ traditional and virtual autopsy team, according to its website.

Under this new, one-year agreement the county has been contracting out its medical examiner services rather than having an entire department with a full staff.

In an October news conference, Matshes described his role as an administrator and said he does not perform autopsies at the medical examiner’s office.

“We have a cadre of autopsy technicians who assist and our chief autopsy tech and it’s one of my administrative oversight responsibilities to ensure that they have the skills to provide the technical support Dr. Andrews needs,” he said.

Graves, who has worked at the medical examiner’s office since 2015, said she saw Matshes autopsy the bodies of children and collected from them more tissue and organs than required to determine a cause of death.

“It didn’t matter what the cause of death was, they took the brains the spinal cords, the spinal column from the neck sometimes parts of ribs, sometimes parts of legs, the heart, the lungs, the eyeballs,” she said. “All shipped to San Diego.”

She said Matshes was not a licensed medical doctor in Texas and did not have the permission from the parents of the children he autopsied to collect the tissue and organs.

Graves said Matshes was upset with her for speaking with police and Corley, allegedly telling her that LPD was “not completely on your side.”

Three days later, she was fired, the lawsuit states.

Grave’s lawsuit was filed about two weeks after the Lubbock County District Attorney’s Office requested Texas Rangers investigate “any and all potential allegations with the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Office.”

Neal Burt, the Lubbock County District Attorney civil chief, said he declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“We’re unable to comment because many of the points raised in Ms. Grave’s petition intersect with matters the Rangers are being requested to investigate.”