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Nueces County Deputy Medical Examiner fired for practicing without a license

Dr. Sandra Lyden was fired from her position at the Medical Examiner's office last Friday -- the same day investigators seized 33 files from her office.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — 3News has learned that Nueces County's deputy chief medical examiner was abruptly fired last Friday, Jan. 14. It turns out the firing stems from some serious discrepancies at the Medical Examiner's Office.

It happened after Dr. Sandra Lyden allegedly ruled during an autopsy that the death of a Corpus Christi woman was caused by "blunt force injuries." This was later proven incorrect after a second autopsy was performed.

According to a probable cause statement that was part of a Nueces County district attorney's search warrant, Dr. Sandra Lyden did not possess a license to practice medicine in Texas, nor did she possess a Texas temporary emergency permit to practice medicine in the state.

The Texas Medical Board provided 3News with a "healthcare provider verification profile" that in fact states Dr. Sandra Diane Lyden's permit to practice in the state of Texas had been terminated.

The probable cause statement, written by Corpus Christi Police Department Detective Jason Smith, indicates Dr. Lyden admitted that she performed the autopsy on the Corpus Christi woman on Jan. 3, writing in the report that, "based on the autopsy and the history available to me, it is my opinion that the cause of death of the 27-year-old white female was a result of 'blunt force injuries.'"

Smith writes in his report that Dr. Lyden said the deceased had a fractured neck that caused the death, which is why it was ruled a homicide. The probable cause statement indicates that Detective Smith then met with the district attorney and a decision was made to have an independent second autopsy performed.

The body was transported to Georgetown, Texas, for that second autopsy and it was determined that the woman had died of natural causes.

Now Nueces County Medical Examiner Dr. Adel Shaker told Detective Smith that he was present during the initial autopsy of the woman, adding that "he agreed with Dr. Lyden's assessment, her diagnosis, and her findings."

Detective Smith goes on to reveal in his statement that Dr. Lyden was hired by Shaker on Dec. 6, 2021, and Shaker was aware that Lyden "was not licensed to practice medicine in Texas."

3News spoke with Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales about what she knew concerning the case, She said she had spoken with Dr. Shaker.

"It was practicing without a license, and so I then inquired," Canales said, "did she have a license when you brought her from Florida? Is she an M.D.? Yes. Is she a pathologist? Yes. Did she apply for reciprocity here in Texas? Yes. Do you have evidence of that? Yes. Is there a sponsorship that goes along with that? Yes. And he signed that sponsorship that goes along with that? Yes. And he signed that sponsorship. And do you know if she's actually received application process and given the permit. He said he did not."

Canales said she asked the governor to send assistance to help the understaffed Medical Examiner's Office while the County searches for a replacement. 

Information available to 3News is very limited because the case is still part of an ongoing open investigation by the Nueces County District Attorney's Office.

Dr. Sandra Lyden was fired from her position at the Medical Examiner's office last Friday. It was on that same day investigators, armed with a warrant, seized 33 files from autopsy cases worked on by Dr. Lyden. They also included one document granting cremation orders, and a large bag with assorted prescription medications from patients taken from Dr. Lyden's office.

Nueces County Commissioners are set to take up this matter when they meet again on Monday. 3News will keep you updated.

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