Dr. Frederick Zugibe, the founding Rockland medical examiner who modernized forensic pathology and gained international renown for his work on what some believe is the burial cloth of Jesus, died Friday night.
Zugibe was 85.
Zugibe, the father of several lawyers, business people and the current Rockland County district attorney, Thomas Zugibe, served 33 years as Rockland medical examiner, creating the office that handled 264 cases during his first year and more than 8,000 by the time he retired in 2002.
After decades of living in Haverstraw, Zugibe and his wife Catherine spent time in Orange County before returning home several years ago to Garnerville, where he died.
During his tenure, Zugibe was credited with discovering techniques to restore fingerprints on corpses and for determining cardiovascular disease during autopsies.
Zugibe’s reputation led to his appearing as an expert on national television, where he discussed such cases as the JonBenet Ramsey murder, the death of Princess Diana, and the probe of two New Jersey teens accused of killing their newborn infant in a Delaware hotel.
He also gained international renown for his work on the Shroud of Turin, said by some to be the burial cloth of Jesus, and did scientific research on the cause of Jesus’s death. He wrote The Crucifixion of Jesus, a Forensic Inquiry and Dissecting Death: Secrets of a Medical Examiner.
Zugibe also wrote a book on diagnostic pathology, "Diagnostic Histochemistry," which has been used in medical centers throughout the world. He also discovered glycoprotein storage disease, which he and Dr. Enid Gilbert wrote about in the American Journal of Medicine. It is called Zugibe-Gilbert syndrome.
Zugibe was both sleuth and scientist when investigating deaths. He personally handled homicide scenes and other crimes, immediately using his position to take charge from the local detectives or sheriff’s officers.
He directed the investigations.
“He showed up and took control of the scene and we all waited for his thoughts on what might have happened at the scene and his conclusions after the autopsies,” said Peter Modafferi, the longtime chief of detectives for the Rockland District Attorney’s Office.