Werner Spitz, Pathologist Who Examined MLK and RFK Corpses, Is Dead at 96

Dr. Werner Spitz, a pathologist who helped revolutionize the field of forensic medicine and was involved in investigations of some of the most high-profile deaths of the 20th century, including those of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., died on Monday at his home in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan. He was 96.

Born in Germany in 1926 to Jewish parents, Dr. Spitz fled Nazi Germany for Israel, where he attended medical school before immigrating to the United States in 1959. He served as a medical examiner in Maryland and Michigan and was a pioneer in the field of forensic pathology, publishing the landmark text "Medicolegal Investigation of Death" in 1973.

In this work, Dr. Spitz drew on his extensive experience with thousands of autopsies to lay out best practices for combining medical expertise with the forensic investigation of deaths. He would go on to become a revered professor and speaker, lecturing at universities and conferences around the world on topics like gunshot wounds and forensic techniques.

In this article, the New York Times reflects on Dr. Spitz's legacy as a "medical detective" whose keen eye for detail often revealed crucial insights into violent deaths that were overlooked by others.

Dr. Spitz was a proponent of the controversial theory that Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner, killed Lee Harvey Oswald, the primary suspect in the assassination of President Kennedy, because he was upset about the slaying of his brother, a police officer, just weeks earlier.

When Dr. Spitz was named an adviser to the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s, which reinvestigated the murders of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., he was highly critical of the original autopsies performed on both men.

Dr. Spitz was also an expert witness in numerous high-profile murder cases, including the trials of O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, and Robert Chambers, the "Preppy Killer." In each case, he used his expertise to analyze evidence and provide insights into the cause of death, often in stark contrast to official findings.

Dr. Spitz was known for his ability to extract minute details from forensic evidence. His skill led him to conclude, for example, that President Kennedy had been shot by two bullets fired from behind, contrary to theories advocating for a second gunman.

While Dr. Spitz was admired by many of his peers, some criticized his willingness to offer expert testimony for both prosecutors and defense attorneys and his occasional divergence from scientific evidence in favor of conspiracy theories when making public statements.

Nonetheless, Dr. Spitz's work undeniably influenced the field of forensic pathology and inspired several subsequent generations of medical examiners.

In his later years, Dr. Spitz continued to consult on high-profile cases and made appearances in documentaries and interviews, offering his opinions on some of the most sensational deaths of the past few decades.

He is survived by his wife, Anne Keates, his sons Daniel and Jonathan Spitz, his daughter, Rhona Dempsey, and 10 grandchildren.

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