Published On: Wed, Jul 31st, 2013

Pittsburgh neurologist Robert Ferrante pleads ‘not guilty’ to poisoning wife with cyanide

A University of Pittsburgh neuroscientist has pleaded not guilty to criminal homicide in the death of his wife, a doctor, who collapsed in their home and died three days later of acute cyanide poisoning.

robert-ferranteDr. Robert Ferrante, age 64, allegedly killed his wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, age 41, by lacing her creatine drink with cyanide on April 17, the same day the couple had exchanged text messages about how a creatine regimen could help them conceive their second child, according to the criminal complaint.

Defense attorney William Difenderfer has said Ferrante “adamantly” denies involvement in the April 20 death of his wife, but after the arraignment, Difenderfer refused comment on any of the allegations, including that Ferrante bought the poison with a university credit card two days before his wife fell ill.

Doctors at UPMC Presbyterian hospital, where both Klein and Ferrante worked, were puzzled by her sudden illness and considered everything from a stroke to a seizure disorder in treating her.

Blood tests revealed a lethal level of cyanide, but only after Klein had died and been cremated at her husband’s insistence, police said.

During the hearing, Difenderfer said Ferrante, who appeared on video from the county jail wearing a white dress shirt beneath his red jail jumpsuit, remains “devastated” by his wife’s death.

“I’m sure it’s not easy for him,” Difenderfer said, noting the celebrated researcher into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, has never been in criminal trouble before. “He’s devastated by losing his wife and doubly devastated by being named the cause.”

An affidavit and several search warrants suggest Ferrante plotted to poison his wife, then took steps to delay her medical care and keep the cyanide from being detected.

Among other things, police said Ferrante told a 911 dispatcher he wanted his wife taken to another UPMC hospital a mile farther from their house than UPMC Presbyterian, which has a top-rated trauma center. And witnesses at the hospital told police Ferrante’s reactions “seemed fake and like `bad acting'” and that he spoke of her in the past tense when she was still alive.


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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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  1. Robert Ferrante gave thousands of dollars to children before arrest for murdering wife Autumn Klein - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] He has entered a “not guilty” plea. […]

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