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Man Charged With Killing Daughter, Whose Organs Went To Tabatha Foster

May 15, 1988

PENNINGTON GAP, Va. (AP) _ The infant who provided the five vital organs transplanted into 3-year-old Tabatha Foster had been murdered by her father, police charged.

Earl F. Shirks, who originally told authorities his 7-week-old daughter was injured in an automobile accident, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Heather R. Orick, Lee County Sheriff Robert Chadwell said Friday.

Heather’s vital organs were donated to Tabatha, who was the longest survivor of a five-organ transplant until her death Wednesday of organ failure caused by a blood infection.

Authorities said Saturday there was no link between the timing of Tabatha’s death and the murder charge being filed against Shirks, 44, of Pennington Gap.

″Just a coincidence,″ said Betty Janeway, a dispatcher for the sheriff’s department.

Chadwell refused to discuss the cause of Heather’s Oct. 30 death on Friday, and could not be reached over the weekend. He was said to be out of the office and dispatchers would not give out his home number.

Shirks took his daughter to Lee County Community Hospital on Oct. 8, and she died 22 days later at the Children’s Hospital at Fort Sanders Hospital in Knoxville, Tenn.

The infant’s vital organs were flown to Pittsburgh, where Tabatha received the liver, pancreas and small intestine and parts of the stomach and colon during a 15-hour operation that ended Nov. 1.

In an interview after his daughter’s organs were donated to the Madisonville, Ky., girl, Shirks said Heather was in a small seat on the console of his car when he slammed on his brakes to avoid another vehicle coming toward them in a curve. Shirks said his daughter struck her head on the car’s gear shift.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.

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