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UPDATE: Nueces County Commissioners respond to firing at medical examiner's office

Investigation will determine county's next steps
Posted at 6:27 PM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 19:28:16-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Nueces County commissioners are responding to the firing of a deputy chief at the medical examiner’s office.

On Friday, KRIS 6 reported The Texas Medical Board’s claim that Sandra Lyden did not have a license to practice medicine in the state of Texas nor a temporary permit.

The firing came after Lyden wrongly declared a woman's death as a homicide, but a second autopsy ruled it a natural death.

Commissioners Brent Chesney and Robert Hernandez both said Monday they were shocked to find out the lack of credentials that Lyden had, and they wanted answers as to how and why she was hired without the proper vetting.

In early January, a Corpus Christi police detective questioned Lydens findings after she declared a 27-year-old woman's death a homicide. According to an affidavit obtained by KRIS 6, Lyden could not explain her conclusions, so the detective then went to the district attorney’s office. The DA requested a second opinion, and the medical examiner from Georgetown, Texas, said the woman died of natural causes.

Investigators also found Lyden didn't have a license to practice medicine in Texas.

"You would hope the HR department was involved in anything related to any hiring in the county, because to me, that's why you have an HR department,” Chesney, Nueces County commissioner precinct 4, said. “So, first and foremost, the look needs to be at the HR department on this as well and not just the medical examiner."

Precinct 1 Commissioner Robert Hernandez agreed.

"I would think that's one of the responsibilities they have to do to know who you're getting, who you're bringing on board,” Hernandez said. “These are very delicate cases and a lot is at stake."

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Adel Shaker told detectives that he was present when Lyden performed the autopsy and agreed with her findings. According to records, Shaker knew Lyden didn't have the right license and that she needed to get at least an emergency permit to perform the job.

“The primary concern for me is that one, potentially people were not qualified to be doing the work.” Chesney said. “And two, why the autopsy in question there was such a mistake made by not only the one that we just did hire, not the one that we hired, but the one that Shaker hired. And that allegedly he agreed with those findings. And yet, an independent group out of another county that was hired found it completely to be the opposite.”

Lyden was fired but an investigation is ongoing.

“I feel like an investigation has to come to a conclusion to see what they come up with," Chesney said. "And if there’s some illegalities going on then we should proceed as far as starting to look for a new M.E.”

Chesney said he did put discussion about the situation at the medical examiner’s office on Wednesday's commissioners court agenda.

In an email to the county attorney and the DA’s office, Commissioner Joe A Gonzalez requested the DA be in attendance to brief commissioners. He also asked for any emails or letters sent to County Judge Barbara Canales over a week ago be made available to the court.

KRIS 6 tried to talk with County Judge Barbara Canales at Monday's meeting. Canales said she didn't know much about what happened at the medical examiner’s office but she hopes to learn more about the investigation on Wednesday.

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