The 37-year-old, who posed as an expert in the investigation of the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August, 2014, has drawn renewed attention after allegedly setting up businesses and websites selling his services to victims of the novel coronavirus, offering to check tissue samples from loved ones who may have died of covid-19 but were not tested.
“I plan to order and have on hand test kits should I get called into action by a family or public health official,” Parcells told the Topeka Capital-Journal last month while addressing concerns that the covid-19 tests could violate conditions set by a Kansas judge that largely prevent him from working with human remains. “With my current consulting practice, I can still get swabs collected without doing an autopsy and conclude covid-19 as the cause of death.”
On Tuesday, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced that a judge had approved a new protective order barring Parcells from offering his services to covid-19 victims’ families. That order expanded on an existing one that prevents him from performing or selling autopsies.
Parcells did not immediately return a request for comment through his attorney early Wednesday.
Kansas has reported 161 deaths and more than 5,600 coronavirus cases. It is unclear how many people may have been drawn in by Parcells’s advertisements, but Schmidt said news reports had quoted Parcells claiming two families in New York had contacted him about getting tests for family members who had died.
Schmidt said websites and social media accounts operated by Parcells “amounted to deceptive or unconscionable misrepresentations in violation of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.”
“Parcells was offering to enter homes and businesses, perform swabs for purported coronavirus testing and examine deceased persons to determine if they were positive for covid-19,” Schmidt added in his statement.
In emails forwarded to the Capital-Journal by Parcells’s lawyer, Parcells defended his covid-19 testing ventures and said he would be willing to volunteer his services free to coronavirus victims to prove he wasn’t motivated by profit.
“Maybe that will help them understand I am not looking at this to start up a business and go out and take advantage of people,” Parcells reportedly wrote.
In addition to stopping Parcells’s questionable coronavirus business, the court order also found him in contempt for violating the rules set by the original restraining order filed last year. Schmidt said this was the third time he has been found in contempt of court since the lawsuit against him was filed.
He has called himself a “professor,” although later he clarified in court that he had worked as an adjunct, not tenured, professor. According to Tuesday’s restraining order, he had in the past adopted the title “PA,” which usually stands for physician assistant, and the court instructed him to instead use “pathology assistant” only. He also admitted to CNN in 2014 that he had allowed police to believe he was a medical doctor.
In past interviews, Parcells has told his story of learning to do autopsies by shadowing licensed pathologists beginning when he was a junior in high school. He has acknowledged on multiple occasions, including during a court hearing last year, that he does not have a medical degree or a license to perform autopsies in Kansas.
“I tell people all the time I almost became a neurosurgeon,” Parcells told KCTV last year. “That doesn’t mean I’m a doctor. That doesn’t mean that I was in medical school. I really did almost do that.”
In a statement provided to the Kansas City Star Tuesday, Eric Kjorlie, Parcells’ attorney, said his client was “a tissue recovery specialist” and compared him to Galileo Galilei, the 17th-century astronomer who was tried for heresy for suggesting the Earth revolved around the sun.
“Galileo was attacked because his science was not accepted,” Kjorlie told the Star. “But … when you open up the package, it was science. So we’re getting blowback from people who aren’t scientists and not from people who are in the field.”
As The Washington Post reported in 2014, Parcells has benefited from his association with renowned forensic pathologist Michael Baden, who oversaw the Michael Brown autopsy and appeared beside Parcells at a news conference to discuss its results. Multiple news outlets called Parcells a “forensic pathologist” despite his lack of a medical degree and interviewed him as an expert in the controversial death investigation.
Parcells was first banned from performing autopsies in March 2019, after multiple reports surfaced that he had allegedly taken money to perform services for grieving families around the United States but didn’t deliver results to multiple customers.
“It seems that we were scammed,” Luis Quintanilla, who lives in Illinois, told CBS Chicago after he ordered an independent autopsy from Parcells’s business to determine whether malpractice may have played a role in his father’s death. “This guy took advantage of our feelings … took our money and kept playing us.”
Parcells has denied he tried to take advantage of anyone and has blamed the court order preventing him from performing autopsies for some of the pathology reports that never materialized.
“At no time did I ever set out to defraud or take people’s money,” he told KSN last year.
Last year, Parcells was charged in Wabaunsee County with multiple counts of felony theft and criminal desecration, Schmidt said in his statement. Those charges are pending, the Kansas attorney general said. His office also has filed a civil suit against Parcells.
As the coronavirus pandemic has gripped the United States, killing more than 71,000 people and infecting more than 1.2 million, many opportunists have seen a chance to profit from people’s fear and anxiety.
Some alleged scammers have set up sham covid-19 testing centers, charging customers $240 for a fraudulent virus test to pocket the cash and collect personal information from victims. Others have been accused of falsely claiming to have gloves, masks and hand sanitizer to sell amid a pandemic-driven shortage of protective gear. And countless grifts have spread across the Internet advertising common household goods as miracle cures for the coronavirus, as people tried to hawk colloidal silver, useless herbs and fake medicine to desperate people.
Kjorlie told the Star his client would not appeal the restraining order barring him from selling coronavirus tests to victims of the pandemic.