Cyril Wecht, celebrity pathologist who analyzed deaths of JFK, Elvis, dead at 93

Cyril Wecht

PITTSBURGH — Cyril Wecht, a celebrity pathologist whose high-profile cases included analyzing the deaths of President John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley and JonBenet Ramsey, died Monday. He was 93.

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A spokesperson for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts confirmed Wecht’s death, WPXI-TV reported.

Wecht held various roles in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, serving in the coroner’s office for 20 years; the district attorney’s office; the Veterans Administration, where he was a pathologist; and as a county commissioner, according to the television station.

According to his biography on the Duquesne University website, Wecht performed approximately 21,000 autopsies and reviewed or been consulted on approximately 42,000 additional postmortem examinations, including cases in several foreign countries.

Wecht, who held law degrees from the University of Maryland and the University of Pittsburgh -- where he also had a degree from the school’s medicine college -- Wecht was a vocal critic of the Warren Commission’s report that concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was Kennedy’s lone assassin in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

After reviewing the autopsy documents, discovering the president’s brain was missing and viewing an amateur video of Kennedy’s assassination, Wecht concluded that the Warren Commission’s findings that a single bullet killed the president were “absolute nonsense,” The Associated Press reported.

“He was the first civilian permitted to examine the evidence from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy at the National Archives, and the first person to discover that the President’s brain, and related material, was missing,” an obituary from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts stated. “He was the nation’s foremost critic of the Warren Commission’s infamous single bullet theory. He personally conducted tens of thousands of autopsies, consulted and testified in countless criminal and civil cases, spoke around the world to professional, lay, and student groups, held several faculty appointments, authored dozens of books and hundreds of scholarly articles, and collaborated on numerous film and television projects, including the award-winning films JFK and Concussion.”

The publicity generated by Wecht’s opinion about the Warren Commission made him a “go-to” pathologist on dozens of high-profile cases, including those of Presley and Benet, the AP reported.

He testified for the defense in the case of Jean Harris, who was accused of killing Herman Tarnower of “Scarsdale Diet” fame, according to the news organization.

His testimony at the trial of Claus Von Bulow may have attributed to his acquittal on charges that he attempted to kill his wife, an heiress, the AP reported.

Wecht held faculty positions at several Pittsburgh area schools, including the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University and Carlow University, according to WPXI. He founded the Pittsburgh Institute of Legal Medicine and the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law at Duquesne, where he also taught for approximately 60 years, according to the television station.

In a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro called Wecht “a legendary figure in forensic pathology and criminal justice, adding that “the way he pursued truth and justice is an inspiration.”

Duquesne University President Ken Gormley said in a statement that the school was “blessed by his presence on campus as a professor,” WPXI reported.

“Dr. Cyril Wecht was a globally respected forensic pathologist, a gifted politician, and an incredible champion of Duquesne University,” Gormley said. “His professional acumen, captivating stories, and keen intellect will be sorely missed by the Duquesne community, the region he served so faithfully, and the entire world that recognized him as one of the great forensic pathologists of our time.

“On a more personal note, Cyril has been a trusted friend since I began my career -- he never minced words, he had a lively and colorful personality, and he also had a heart of gold. There was, and will only be, one Dr. Cyril Wecht. His passing leaves a void in our hearts forever.”

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