Dr. Cyril Wecht Legendary Forensic PATHOLOGIST and PITTSBURGH Icon Passes Away at 93

“Dr. Cyril Wecht” Legendary Forensic PATHOLOGIST and PITTSBURGH Icon Passes Away at 93

PITTSBURGH – Dr. Cyril Wecht, a nationally known forensic pathologist and former Allegheny County coroner, died at the age of 93, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. He was well-known for his involvement in high-profile cases such as JonBenet Ramsey and Anna Nicole Smith, as well as President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It was August 1972, and the president’s brain had disappeared.

Wecht was granted access to the National Archives’ material about Kennedy’s assassination.

Wecht, a critic of the Warren Commission’s “official” assassination report, stated that it would be impossible to address questions regarding the president’s death in Dallas without his preserved brain and microscopic slides of tissue from the bullet wounds. But when he realised they were “missing” from the archives, Wecht raised the alarm, making international news.

It was not the last time he would be in the spotlight.

Wecht was born in March 1931 to immigrant parents in rural Greene County. He grew up in McKees Rocks and subsequently the Hill District, where he attended Fifth Avenue High School before receiving his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1956.

After three years in the Air Force, he got a law degree from the University of Maryland and began a career in forensic pathology, which would impact the remainder of his life and involve him in some of the nation’s most high-profile criminal cases throughout the years. His official service in Allegheny County began in 1965 as deputy coroner, and he was elected coroner in 1970 and commissioner in 1980.

He served for years as a consultant on cases such as Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination and the Manson family killings. He was re-elected coroner in 1995, while also assisting on criminal matters such as JonBenet Ramsey’s murder and testifying as an expert witness in court.

His judgements occasionally rendered him an iconoclast or the defendant himself.

He was the sole forensic pathologist to appear before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, claiming that a “lone gunman” could not have killed JFK.

When District Attorney Stephen Zappala “declined” to prosecute Pittsburgh police officers who Wecht determined were responsible for Charles Dixon’s suffocation death, he released his own medical opinion and faced federal charges for allegedly using the coroner’s office for personal gain.

It ended in a mistrial, with suspicions that his prosecution was politically motivated.

Many solicitors credit Wecht for bringing forensic pathology to the forefront of investigations and trials.

He has also written a dozen books and appeared in a Las Vegas performance about notable criminal cases. In addition, he worked on various film and television productions, including the award-winning films “JFK” and “Concussion.” In a statement, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey described Wecht as a “larger-than-life” figure who “embodied Pittsburgh.”

“As we grieve the loss of this Pittsburgh legend, let us remember his commitment to uncovering the truth. We send our heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends, and we hope that his memory will be a blessing in the days and years ahead,” Gainey stated.

The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts wrote of Wecht, “He loved Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, and, although he travelled the world, he never would consider living anyplace else (except for his two years of military service and his brief stay in Baltimore following discharge). Most importantly, Cyril cherished his family and made the happiness, well-being, and education of his wife, children, and grandchildren his primary focus in life.”

Following Wecht’s death, Duquesne University President Ken Gormley issued this statement: “Dr. Cyril Wecht was a globally respected forensic pathologist, a gifted politician, and an incredible champion of Duquesne University.” For many years, he was a professor at the Duquesne Kline Law School, which benefited the Duquesne community greatly.

His legacy lives on in the scholarly work of the Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law, as well as the Cyril H. Wecht Forensic Science Collection. I was honoured to call him a longtime colleague. His professional expertise, interesting anecdotes, and sharp mind would be dearly missed by the Duquesne community, the region he proudly served, and the entire globe, which recognised him as one of the greatest forensic pathologists of our time.

On a more personal level, Cyril has been a trusted friend since the beginning of my profession; he never minced words, had a bright and colourful personality, and had a golden heart. There was and will be only one Dr. Cyril Wecht. His death will leave an eternal emptiness in our hearts.

Mayor Ed Gainey remarked, “As we grieve the death of this Pittsburgh legend, let us remember his commitment to finding the truth. We send our heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends, and we hope that his memory will be a blessing in the days and years ahead.

“It is with a heavy heart that the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner joins the greater Pittsburgh community in mourning the loss of Dr. Cyril H. Wecht,” Dr. Ariel Goldschmidt, Allegheny County Chief Medical Examiner remarked.”Dr Wecht was a pioneer in the field of forensic medicine, having served as Allegheny County’s coroner for many years and its first designated medical examiner.

Dr. Wecht rose to international fame as a result of his vocal passion for the area, having consulted on the deaths of many famous persons, including the late US President John F. Kennedy and others. Dr. Wecht continued to work on cases well into his 90s and never shied away from opposing ideas.

Many will miss his colourful and larger-than-life personality and commitment to teaching; however, his legacy and contributions to the fields of Forensic Medicine and Law will live on through local educational institutions bearing his name, such as the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law at Duquesne University.” Wecht married Sigrid Ronsdal in 1961, and they had four children, including Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Justice David Wecht. He also leaves eleven grandchildren.

The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts stated that his funeral and burial, as well as shiva, a period of mourning in the Jewish faith, will be held privately. However, a public memorial service will be held at a later date.

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