Adoptive grandmother files lawsuit against Lubbock Co. Medical Examiner's Office
An adoptive grandmother who claims her child was "disassembled" by the Lubbock Co. Medical Examiner's Office, has filed a lawsuit against Dr. Sam Andrews, Dr. Evan Matshes and NAAG Pathology Labs.
Rebecca Villareal Oritz lost Elaina Rose Castilleja after a lifetime of medical challenges. At 5 months old, Elaina suffered shaken baby syndrome, diagnosed with cerebral palsy, scoliosis and was legally blind. According to the lawsuit, on Sept. 15. Elaina's health rapidly declined, and she was admitted to the hospital, where she passed away.
After Elaina's passing, court documents indicate on Sept. 19, Dr. Andrews cited a "particular administrative interest" in the autopsy of her remains. Court records indicate Andrews ordered forensic pathologist Dr. Stephen Pustilnik to perform a standard, complete pediatric forensic autopsy. In addition, Andrews reportedly ordered Pustilnik to preserve the child's brain, spine, skull fracture, eyes, heart, lungs and any removed tissue.
The lawsuit states "Sam Andrews' directions for the autopsy of Elaina were forensically unjustified and excessive, considering the history of her injury and death."
Ortiz is claiming six counts of mishandling of human remains and interference with final deposition rights. The suit indicates that she did not give consent for these actions, and nothing about the child's traumatic brain injury could be learned from her heart, spine or lungs.
Her attorney, Travis Ware said his office studied long and hard before filing suit.
"We didn't just go off some random gossip or rumor," Ware said. "This was based upon three sworn affidavits from witnesses."
Oritz is seeking money damages of $100,000 or more for mental anguish and exemplary damages because she believes the defendants were grossly negligent.
The National Autopsy Assay Group (NAAG) released the following statement Tuesday morning:
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.
During a phone conversation with a company spokesperson, he told FOX34, the suit's claims are "rediculous" and "bizarre". Ware agreed it is bizarre, but necessary for legal action.
"With the information that we had and upon in which we acted, we had no choice but to file this lawsuit," Ware said.