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More trouble for medical examiner, allegations of mishandling child’s body

Local News

Rebecca Villarreal Ortiz sued the Lubbock County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Sam Andrews, Dr. Evan Matshes, NAAG, and NAAG Pathology Labs.  

Villarreal’s lawsuit on Monday claimed that Dr. Andrews, and Dr. Matshes are responsible for taking body parts from a dead child without permission.

Related Story: National Autopsy Assay Group defends medical decisions, after lawsuit filed 

The lawsuit said the child, Elaina Castilleja, suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2010.  Elaina died in 2018 at the age of 10, the lawsuit said.  During her life, Elaina was adopted by Villarreal who was her grandmother.

Elaina’s remains were taken to the office of medical examiner in September a few days before the Lubbock County Commissioner’s contracted NAAG to operate the office of medical examiner. At that time, Dr. Andrews was the interim medical examiner.  Andrews was appointed full-time to be the medical examiner as of October 1.

Internal organs were taken from Elaina’s body according to the lawsuit and according to other documents previously acquired by EverythingLubbock.com.  Written instructions from Dr. Andrews said NAAG had a “particular administrative interest” in the body.  The body parts were shipped to San Diego without permission of the family, according to the lawsuit.

Photographs mentioned in a different lawsuit appear to show Dr. Matshes assisting with an autopsy even though, according to the previous lawsuit, he was not properly licensed in Texas at that time.  

The lawsuit accused Andrews, Matches, NAAG and NAAG Pathology of “mishandling” remains.  

“A reasonably prudent forensic pathologist would not have taken the same actions,” the lawsuit said. 

“The collection and retention of tissue not required for certification of the cause and manner of death is not statutorily authorized,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks $100,000 or more.  CLICK HERE to read Villarreal’s lawsuit. 

“Who are these monsters?” Villarreal asked in a February 19 interview with KAMC and EverythingLubbock.com. “Who are these people!”

“I didn’t sign papers for them to disassemble [her],” Villarreal said in the interview.

Villarreal is not the only one to make allegations that body parts were taken from children without permission. Former employee of the office of medical examiner Tita Senee Graves sued Dr. Andrews, Dr. Matshes and NAAG Pathology on February 20. 

Graves sued for $1 million or more.  

After this story was initially published, NAAG issued a written statement. It said:

“As medical examiners our duty is to the victim of a crime to assure that evidence is available should the district attorney or a grand jury decide to pursue additional charges in a case.  If the evidence is destroyed it could make it impossible to achieve justice for the victim. Our responsibility to the community and the criminal justice system is to ensure that the cause and manner of death are proven correct, even when that process contradicts the wishes of family members. We stand by our decisions in this case.”

Related Stories: Continuing Coverage – accusations against the medical examiner’s office 

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify the source of the allegation that an autopsy was done prior to Dr. Matshes getting properly licensed in Texas. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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