PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The trial of a University of Pittsburgh researcher accused of poisoning his wife with cyanide last year continued Wednesday.
Testimony centered on the testing of Dr. Autumn Klein’s blood, which was sent to the Quest Diagnostic lab in Chantilly, Virginia.
The original reading showed cyanide levels of 2.2 milligrams per liter, but was changed by a technician who reviewed it to 3.35 milligrams per liter.
The defense claims the higher number was used when police decided to charge Robert Ferrante with murder, but later the report was revised to reflect the original 2.2 number. The technician who revised it upward testified he made a math error.
The prosecution says both numbers reflect lethal doses of cyanide.
Medical Technician Sonia Obcemea, who performed the cyanide test on Klein’s blood, testified that she stands by her findings.
“I got 2.2, which is very, very high,” Obcemea said. “I’ve done thousands of cyanide tests and this had very high levels of cyanide.”
Obcemea also said this is the first lethal level she has seen in her 37 years of experience.
Dr. Leslie Edinboro, the science director of Quest Diagnostics, also took the stand during Wednesday’s proceedings.
Defense attorney Bill Difenderfer had plenty of questions for the people who run the Quest labs, about why there was no retest there, whether the testing company paid attention to the calibration machine that was taken out of service for repair not long after that test, and whether any of that affected the outcome.
Late today, though Allegheny County Medical Examiner staffer Alicia Smith testified that she too tested her own sample of blood from the hospital, and the result she got indicated positive for cyanide. Her test, though does not identify concentration, just the presence of cyanide.
On Tuesday, Klein’s mother, Lois, testified that in the early morning hours of April 18, 2013, she got a call from Ferrante saying that her daughter came home from work, kissed him on the cheek as usual, said she didn’t feel well and then collapsed.
It took about four hours for them to get to the house in Pittsburgh, but once they arrive at about 5 a.m., Ferrante wasn’t there. He arrived about 15 minutes later.
“He was faking, making like he was teary-eyed,” Klein testified.
She also said he never told them that she was in the hospital, what hospital she was taken to, or what her condition was.
It wasn’t until 4 p.m. the next afternoon, once his children from a previous marriage arrived that they were taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.
Klein testified that she wanted an autopsy “because a healthy 41-year-old woman doesn’t just come home and fall in the floor.”
But Ferrante did not want an autopsy. He theorized she had a heart attack or suffered a “brain surge.”
Late in the day, the prosecution also produced suicide notes from Ferrante that were written to his children. He said he loved his wife very much, did not kill her, but did not want to live without her.
The prosecution is expected to wrap up its case by the end of the week.
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