Pathologist Tried to Prove JFK Assassination Theory

Cyril Wecht plunged into high-profile death investigations
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 15, 2024 5:35 PM CDT
Cyril Wecht Argued More Than 1 Gunman Killed JFK
Dr. Cyril Wecht speaks during the swearing-in ceremony for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice David Wecht, his son, in 2016 at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.   (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

Dr. Cyril Wecht, a pathologist and attorney whose cynicism and positions on high-profile deaths such as President John F. Kennedy's 1963 assassination caught the attention of prosecutors and TV viewers alike, died Monday. He was 93. No location or cause of death were provided, the AP reports. Wecht's almost meteoric rise to fame began in 1964, when he was serving as an assistant district attorney in Allegheny County and a pathologist in a Pittsburgh hospital. The request came from a group of forensic scientists: Review the Warren Commission's report that concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, assassinated Kennedy.

That was the beginning of what became a lifelong obsession to prove his theory that there was more than one shooter involved in the killing. After reviewing the autopsy documents, discovering the president's brain had gone missing, and viewing an amateur film of the assassination, Wecht concluded the commission's findings that one of three shots fired passed through Kennedy and wounded Texas Gov. John Connally was "absolute nonsense." Wecht's lecture circuit demonstration on the issue made its way into Oliver Stone's movie JFK. It became the courtroom scene showing the path of the "magic bullet."

Attorney F. Lee Bailey called Wecht the "single most important spearhead of challenge" to the Warren report. Wecht's verbal sparring with Sen. Arlen Specter, who was a staffer on the commission, also became well known, culminating in an accusation in his book Cause of Death that the politician's support of the single-bullet theory was "an asinine, pseudoscientific sham at best." Yet Wecht and Specter overcame their differences and developed something of a friendship. Wecht's outspokenness on the assassination later made him a go-to pathologist on dozens of other high-profile cases, from Elvis Presley's to JonBenet Ramsey's.

(More obituary stories.)

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