Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Cyril Wecht: Forensic Pathologist


Born in 1931 in a small Pennsylvania coal-mining town, Wecht eventually moved to Pittsburgh with his parents, where they opened a grocery store. He participated in sports, achieved high grades, and played the violin. His interest in morgues started early, according to his biography in Cause of Death. Since the front entrance to the city morgue was usually open, Wecht and his boyhood friends would scamper past inattentive sentries to gain entrance to the room where fresh bodies lay behind glass windows awaiting the next day's attention. A few had been autopsied, and the blend of pungent odors told the boys undeniably where they were. The young Cyril got a good idea of just what death looked like.

Cyril Wecht, younger
Cyril Wecht, younger

He does not know whether these experiences influenced his eventual choice of profession, but years later he ran for the office of coroner of Allegheny County, and among his many other endeavors, that's what he is today.

Cyril Wecht, graduation
Cyril Wecht, graduation

Dr. Wecht received his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh and his law degree from the University of Maryland. Interested in legal medicine, he did a residency in pathology with the intention of going into forensic work. After serving a stint in the Air Force, he turned to forensic pathology. He has been certified by the American Board of Pathology and is a fellow of the College of American Pathologists and the American Society of Clinical Pathologists.

Currently he serves as a clinical professor at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine and Graduate School of Public Health and is an adjunct professor at Duquesne University Schools of Law, Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He has served as president of the American College of Legal Medicine and the American Academy of Forensics Sciences. He actively consults on medico-legal investigations and forensic science issues, as well as being a lecturer and author, and teaches the bi-annual course for Certified Medical Investigator for the American College of Forensic Examiners International. One might hear him address anything from "How forensic pathology is used to prove your case" to a detailed discourse on his most interesting cases.

Having organized seminars in more than 50 countries, he's more renowned for being among the country's top expert witnesses in criminal trials—a forensic pathologist to be reckoned with. He has personally performed more than 15,000 autopsies, been consulted on some 35,000 postmortem examinations, and has been court-qualified in numerous trials from one side of the country to the other. Besides giving testimony, he often makes comments on national television and radio shows, and provides expert analyses for breaking stories in newspapers.

Grave Secrets
Grave Secrets

Dr. Wecht received his M.D. from the University of Pittsburgh and his J.D. from the University of Maryland. He is formerly the Chair of the Department of Pathology and President of the Medical Staff at St. Francis Central Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

While the public knows him from books like Grave Secrets, Cause of Death and Mortal Evidence, he has also authored more than 475 professional articles and edited many outstanding professional publications in law and forensic science.

Never hesitant to get involved in a death investigation, even (and perhaps especially) a controversial one, Wecht has seen some fascinating cases.

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