PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — Detectives searched his house and his laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, and now after months of speculation, Dr. Robert Ferrante – a University of Pittsburgh professor of neurological surgery – has been charged with poisoning his wife, Dr. Autumn Klein.
Klein, who was chief of the Women’s Neurology at UPMC, was found unresponsive on her kitchen floor in April and died a few days later of what has been described as “toxic levels” of cyanide in her system.
Ferrente was taken into custody around 7 p.m. Thursday along Interstate 77 in Beckley, W. Va. He was then taken to the West Virginia State Police Post for processing and was being held at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver, W. Va., to await arraignment.
He also faces extradition proceedings to be returned to Pennsylvania.
KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti Reports:
The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office released this statement following the arrest:
“In the course of attempting to execute an arrest warrant for homicide suspect Robert Ferrante today in St. Augustine, Fla., our office was advised that counsel for the defendant had advised him of the warrant earlier today and told him to leave the state of Florida. Because the defendant is facing a criminal homicide charge and has the financial means to travel anywhere, a national law enforcement bulletin was broadcast concerning this defendant. This evening, our office was notified by the West Virginia State Police that they had located the defendant and his vehicle near Beckley, W. Va., and shortly thereafter he was taken into custody. Our office will be working with prosecutors in West Virginia to extradite the defendant in a timely fashion and on behalf of the City of Pittsburgh Police Department and our office, we would like to thank the West Virginia State Police for their efforts in taking this homicide suspect into custody.”
Ferrante and his 6-year-old daughter were reportedly in Florida on an extended stay. Pittsburgh Police say they had been staying at his sister’s home.
According to Pittsburgh police, two homicide detectives had traveled to Florida to arrest Ferrante, but found out he had already left the state and was “driving north, possibly back to Pittsburgh.”
Police say West Virginia state troopers tracked him down when they activated their state license plate reader system along Interstate 77. Troopers set up patrols near a toll plaza and when Ferrante passed through, they stopped traffic.
Troopers pulled Ferrante over for a traffic stop and he was then taken into custody without incident, police said.
“[Friday] we believe he’s going to be arraigned on the charges of criminal homicide,” said Lt. Kevin Kraus, of Pittsburgh Police. “At that point, the prosecutors in that jurisdiction will begin working with our prosecutors from the District Attorney’s Office for extradition proceedings.”
Court documents say Ferrante will be charged with criminal homicide.
Attorney William Difenderfer says Ferrante is devastated by the death of his wife, and that he will plea his innocence and fight the charges.
“We’re ready to defend the case,” said Difenderfer. “He is adamant that he is innocent. I believe him and I’m sure it’ll be a hell of a trial.”
But homicide detectives with assistance from the FBI have left little to chance.
Court documents confirm Dr. Ferrante purchased cyanide with a University of Pittsburgh credit card a few days before his wife died from a lethal dose of cyanide.
Ferrante called 911 after Klein collapsed at their home shortly before midnight April 17. According to the police complaint, paramedics saw a small glass vial near a resealable plastic bag containing a white substance that Ferrante told them was creatine.
Later, a witness in the lab saw Ferrante drinking samples of creatine he took from the lab after mixing it with water and sugar and told police that Ferrante put the creatine in a large, resealable plastic bag and kept the cyanide in a safe that only he and one other person could access.
Medical workers at the hospital reported that Ferrante’s reaction to seeing his wife at the hospital seemed fake, and like “bad acting.” Also that Ferrante started speaking about Klein in the past tense while doctors were still treating her.
After Klein’s death and autopsy, police say Ferrante had his wife’s remains cremated. Klein’s parents told investigators they were not consulted about the cremation and that no one reported it to their family.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan Reports:
In addition to searching the house and lab, detectives have traveled to Boston where the couple had worked in the past, they’ve secured emails and computer records and the Allegheny County Crime Lab has performed toxicology tests.
Ferrante is considered a leading researcher on the neurological disease known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and worked at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital before moving to Pittsburgh with Klein two years ago.
His daughter has been placed in the custody of her maternal grandmother.
Watch Ross Guidotti’s report:
Medical Researcher Accused In Wife’s Death Arrested In W. Va. (7/25/13)
Sources: Husband Ordered Cyanide Before Wife’s Death (5/16/13)
More reports on this case
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