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Angered parents demand answers after baby is 'mutilated' during medical examiner's autopsy

ME Baby Web story photo.PNG
Posted at 3:01 PM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 23:26:16-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — There's nothing more joyous than a new baby born into this world.

Olivia Fox and Patrick Canel welcomed their son, Napoleon, Nov. 8, 2016.

"We were excited," said Fox. "He was the sweetest boy. He was the calmest baby, so chill and relaxed, and just (a) really easy-going baby."

Everything seemingly was going well for their family of two girls and their newborn baby boy. Napoleon appeared to be healthy.

"He was very strong for his age," Canel said.

"He just started to hold his own bottle, so that was exciting to see," said Fox.

That excitement would turn to horror just a few months later.

On one morning in late March 2017, Canel remembered putting Napoleon down for a nap.

Soon after, he noticed something seem out of the ordinary.

"He (Napoleon) was starting to be discolored," remembers Canel. "I picked him up, and he was limp. His body went limp."

Canel immediately picked up Napoleon and rushed him to a neighbor next door. They started CPR.

Canel contacted Fox at work, and she rushed to the hospital. Moments later, Napoleon was gone.

"It felt like a very short time that I was there before the doctor looked me in my eyes and took off his gloves," Fox said. "And I fell to the floor. I collapsed, and they told me there was nothing they could do."

Initially, the family was told by the Nueces County Medical Examiner's office that Napoleon died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Then-deputy medical examiner Dr. Adel Shaker completed the official autopsy, showing the child died of bronchopneumonia.

This is the same medical examiner who was arrested in April and charged with 17 violations of the Texas Occupations Code.

Right after the autopsy, Fox said she held Napoleon every day for a week before his funeral.

She said she will never forget the image of the gash across his entire forehead: The child's head was cut open from ear to ear.

It was not stitched back up.

"My son was disfigured when we got him from him passing away," Canel said.

In order to have an open casket funeral service, the funeral home asked the family to bring a cap to cover Napoleon's head to hide the scars.

Now, five years later, and after watching our KRIS 6 Investigates stories about questionable practices in the ME's office, Napoleon's angry and distraught parents finally decided to come forward.

They are questioning the manner in which Napoleon's body was handled following his autopsy.

"It just ate away at me," Fox said. "I would see (Napoleon's image), and it'd just eat away. I was like 'Wait a second. This wasn't right'. It wasn't right what he (Shaker) did."

Since Fox and Canel have come forward, their attorney Ralph Rodriguez said 28 other families have been in touch with him making similar claims.

"I think we have a medical examiner office in this county that has been dysfunctional for years," Rodriguez said.

While no legal action is in the works just yet, Rodriguez is gathering information. He does not rule out a possible civil lawsuit.

"We are going to bring to light the wrongdoing that has occurred civilly, and we're going to let the chips for the fall where they may in terms of who is going to be responsible financially for it," Rodriguez said.

As for whether any criminal wrongdoing is involved here, Rodriguez said he will leave that up to law enforcement offices currently investigating the ME's office.

We reached out to current Nueces County medical examiner Dr. Timothy Fagen for a comment.

"We do have the morgue technicians sew up the bodies following autopsy prior to release to the funeral home," he said. "We do not autopsy all cases that are received at the office for a postmortem exam."

"The circumstances surrounding the case help us choose what kind of postmortem exam is required to assign a cause and manner of death (full autopsy, limited autopsy, or external exam). "

Nueces County attorney Jenny Dorsey also responded.

"Nueces County is very concerned with the care and investigation of deaths by its medical examiners. We have taken great lengths to listen to all concerns and together with our new Medical Examiner, we will ensure that practices at the Medical Examiner's office are and continue to be the best for Nueces County residents," said Dorsey. "Of the many checks and balances to ensure dignity of the deceased and their families, we count on our community partners to report issues, of which there were none."

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