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Dr. Cyril Wecht, Famous Pathologist Who Said More Than One Gunman Killed JFK, Dies at 93 | News, sports, jobs


FILE – Pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, center, talks to the media as Bahamas Chief Coroner Linda Virgil, right, and attorney Michael Scott, left, listen outside the Rand Laboratory Mortuary at Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau, Bahamas, September 17, 2006. Wecht, a pathologist and lawyer whose biting cynicism and controversial positions on high-profile deaths such as the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy captured the attention of prosecutors and TV viewers alike, died on Monday, May 13, 2024. He was 93 years old. (AP Photo/Tim Aylen, file)

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Dr. Cyril Wecht, a pathologist and lawyer whose caustic cynicism and controversial positions on high-profile deaths such as the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy captured the attention of prosecutors and TV viewers alike, died Monday. He was 93.

Wecht’s death was announced by the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts, which did not release a cause of death or place of death, saying only that he “passed away peacefully.”

Wecht’s almost meteoric rise began in 1964, three years after he re-entered civilian life following a brief stint at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. At the time, Wecht worked as an assistant district attorney in Allegheny County and as a pathologist at a hospital in Pittsburgh.

The request came from a group of forensic scientists: Review the Warren Commission report that concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, killed Kennedy. And Wecht, with his usual thoroughness, did just that, beginning what became a lifelong obsession with proving his theory that more than one gunman was involved in the murder.

After reviewing the autopsy documents, discovering that the president’s brain was missing and watching an amateur video of the assassination, Wecht concluded the commission’s findings that a single bullet was involved in the attack that killed Kennedy and the governor of Texas, John Connally, was injured. absolute nonsense.”

Wecht’s lecture demonstration outlining his theory that it was impossible for one bullet to cause the damage he caused in Dallas that November day found its way into Oliver Stone’s film “JFK” after the director consulted with him. It became the famous courtroom scene showing the path of the “magic bullet.”

Attorney F. Lee Bailey called Wecht the “main spearhead of the challenge” to the Warren report. Wecht’s verbal sparring with Senator Arlen Specter, a committee staffer, also became public, culminating in an accusation in his book “Cause of Death” that the politician’s support of the “single-bullet” theory was “a stupid, pseudoscientific was a sham’. best.”

Yet somehow Wecht and Specter overcame their differences and developed a friendship of sorts, with the senator defending the pathologist during a grueling, five-year legal battle that robbed him of much of his savings and ended in 2009.

Ultimately, Wecht emerged victorious, even as a series of legal maneuvers and court decisions forced prosecutors to drop all fraud and theft charges against him in a case that revolved around allegations that he left his public position as a medical specialist in Allegheny County had used. examiner to continue his multimillion-dollar private practice.

Wecht’s outspokenness about the Kennedy assassination and the publicity he generated later made him a go-to pathologist on dozens of other high-profile cases, ranging from Elvis Presley to JonBenet Ramsey, the child beauty queen whose death remains unsolved.

During the murder trial of school principal Jean Harris, charged with the murder of “Scarsdale Diet” Dr. Herman Tarnower, Wecht unsuccessfully testified for the defense. His testimony at the trial of Claus von Bulow may have contributed to Von Bulow’s acquittal of charges that he had attempted to murder his heir Sunny.

After reviewing Elvis’ autopsy report, Wecht concluded, and shared his findings on national television, that the King of Rock likely died of an overdose, and not of heart disease. His findings prompted Tennessee officials to reopen the case in 1994, although the official cause of death was ultimately left unchanged.

In the months leading up to the 1994 OJ Simpson murder trial, Wecht was a frequent talk show guest, making guesses about the significance of blood samples and other evidence on the “Today” show and “Good Morning America.”

When Michael Jackson died in 2009, Wecht took to the airwaves again, discussing the deadly mix of drugs and tranquilizers that killed the King of Pop.

Although he had to deal with death almost daily for more than five decades, Wecht managed to remain generally optimistic, his hearty laugh rumbling deep within him and often humorously entertaining himself with his own, sometimes insulting and caustic jokes.

Still, in a series of interviews with The Associated Press in 2009, Wecht was circumspect and dwelt on the possibility of his own death. His greatest fear, he noted at the time, was suffering or becoming dependent on others, friends and family.

“I want to live when I die. Think about that, Wecht said. “I mean, okay, what is life?”

It is crucial, he said, to die recognizing the people you love, because when you die, they will be gone.

“I will be separated from my wife and my children, my grandchildren and, one day, my great-grandchildren. That’s what death means to me,” Wecht said.

“I would like to keep it going forever.”

However, Wecht was always realistic and took the time to describe many of his cases in six books. In “Cause of Death” — a book written by Wecht, his son Benjamin and Mark Curriden, formerly a writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Dallas Morning News — attorney Alan Dershowitz hailed the pathologist as the “Sherlock Holmes of forensic sciences.” . .”

The son of a grocer, Wecht attended undergraduate school at the University of Pittsburgh and later earned medical and law degrees from the same school. He served two terms as Allegheny County coroner, ending his second in 2006, when he resigned after being indicted on fraud and theft charges.

His first term, from 1970 to 1980, was also fraught. He was also subsequently accused of using the facilities of the provincial mortuary as coroner for his private forensic business. He paid $200,000 in restitution after a lengthy legal battle. He also served a four-year term as an Allegheny County commissioner.

An attempt at the US Senate against John Heinz III in 1982 was unsuccessful.

Survivors include his wife Sigrid and their four children, David, a judge on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania; Daniel, a clinical professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; Benjamin, a freelance writer and teacher; Ingrid, a doctor specialized in obstetrics and gynecology; and 11 grandchildren.



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