Pitt Magazine

Forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht dies at 93

Man in suit sits behind desk.
Rebecca Drake/Copyright, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2024, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.


“You’re going to be a doctor,” the grocer Nathan Wecht repeatedly told his young son, an influence that Cyril Wecht later recalled in a 2017 interview with the Journal of Legal Medicine. Wecht became not only a Doctor of Medicine, but he also went on to become a nationally known forensic pathologist. He died on May 13, 2024, at the age of 93.  

Born in Pittsburgh in 1931, Wecht (A&S ’52, MED ’56, LAW ’62) grew up in Bobtown and McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, before moving to Pittsburgh’s Lower Hill District. He was the only child of Nathan Wecht and Fannie Rubenstein.

Wecht graduated from Fifth Avenue High School as class valedictorian and came to Pitt for his undergraduate studies. He received degrees from Pitt Med and Pitt Law. While at the University, he was president of Phi Epsilon Pi fraternity, concertmaster of the orchestra, business manager of The Pitt News and president of the YMCA.

After medical school, he served in the Air Force at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, and met the woman who would become his wife, Sigrid Ronsdal. They married in 1961 at Temple Rodef Shalom in Pittsburgh.

In a career that spanned medicine and politics, Wecht operated a private pathology practice and held elected positions such as coroner of Allegheny County and chair of the Allegheny County Democratic Party. He served as president of the American College of Legal Medicine from 1970 to 1972 and president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences from 1971 to 1972.

Certified by the American Board of Pathology in anatomic, clinical and forensic pathology, Wecht was a fellow of the College of American Pathologists, the American Society for Clinical Pathology and the National Association of Medical Examiners. Over the course of his career, he performed and consulted on tens of thousands of autopsies.

Wecht’s reputation — in Pittsburgh and across the country — comes in part from his forays into the public eye and the media attention he received as a result. Quick to give his opinion on high-profile deaths, he was particularly well known for challenging the Warren Commission and its conclusions about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Bright and outspoken, Wecht weighed in on the deaths of celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Sharon Tate and Kurt Cobain. In 1998, he collaborated with Charles Bosworth Jr. to write “Who Killed JonBenet Ramsey?” The book was one of many that Wecht published, in addition to a multitude of professional publications.

Active in the Pittsburgh higher education community, Wecht held faculty positions at Pitt, Duquesne University and Carlow University. In 2000, Duquesne University founded the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law, an interdisciplinary center that hosts educational events for students, professionals and the public.

Wecht is survived by his wife, Sigrid, and their four children, as well as 11 grandchildren.