Essential Pittsburgh
3:44 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Examining the John F. Kennedy Assassination: Half a Century Later

Forensic Pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Cyril Wecht, world renowned forensic pathologist and former Allegheny County coroner, remembers exactly what he was doing when he heard the news that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.

“Ironically I was standing in an autopsy room looking at a gunshot victim, a victim of homicide,” says Wecht.

After the shooting, the President was taken to Parkland Hospital with a gaping wound in his head and a bullet hole in his neck. However, after Kennedy was pronounced dead, officials took the body to a military hospital in Bethesda, MD to do the autopsy. According to Wecht, the two medical professionals who handled the procedure had never performed a gunshot autopsy.

“They excluded the real experts because they were civilians. They couldn’t be controlled by military orders telling them what to do or not to do,” says Wecht.

When the suspected assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald was killed, for some the case was presumed to be closed. But in 1978, Wecht was brought in to re-examine the facts of the case.

“This is more than just a murder, this is the President of the United States. How can we ignore the assassination of a President?” he says.

In a testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Wecht was the only one in opposition of the findings of the Warren Commission’s conclusions and single bullet theory.

In Wecht’s opinion, the other pathologists involved with the investigation never examined the details as extensively as him. Wecht, gained access to the National Archives and examined all of the evidence from the day Kennedy was shot, including clothing, several memorandums and Oswald’s rifle. Wecht says he also discovered that the President’s brain, with the bullet wound evidence, was missing and had never been examined properly. This finding made front page news, but was never addressed by the government.

Wecht, now a national authority on this subject, doubts that the conclusions of the Warren Commission will be rectified in his lifetime.

“Another generation or two is required before the general public will ever be able to learn what really happened,” he says.