Ferrante’s Schenley Farms neighbors adjust to murder conviction
Overgrown bushes along the side of the three-story brick home on Lytton Avenue in Oakland where noted UPMC neurologist Autumn Marie Klein had expected to raise her daughter stood as a reminder Saturday of the tragedy that took place inside.
Neighbors said they haven’t seen anyone come or go from the house with hunter green trim since investigators gathered evidence about Klein’s sudden collapse on April 17, 2013. She died three days later at nearby UPMC Presbyterian.
“It was devastating and a tragedy for everyone involved,” neighbor Mary Gold said.
A jury of eight men and four women on Friday convicted Klein’s husband, University of Pittsburgh ALS researcher Robert Ferrante, 66, of first-degree murder. Prosecutors said Ferrante gave his wife a fatal dose of cyanide mixed in a creatine supplement.
“Someone once said that when someone you love dies so young, you can either be sad at what will never be, or be joyful of the time you had with that person,” Klein’s parents, Bill and Lois Klein of Towson, Md., said in a statement issued Friday after the verdict. “We will always enjoy the memory of Autumn’s time with us, but it is hard not to be forever saddened by the time that has been so cruelly taken away.”
Allegheny County Common Pleas President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning will sentence Ferrante to a mandatory term of life in prison on Feb. 4.
News of Ferrante’s conviction traveled quickly through the Schenley Farms area, where residents — many of whom are affiliated with Pitt, UPMC or Carnegie Mellon University — bagged leaves Saturday that had fallen from enormous trees that line the picturesque street in the shadow of Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning.
Ferrante’s trial before Manning began Oct. 23 and included 50 witnesses for the prosecution and 19 for the defense, including Ferrante.
Three jurors who spoke to the media after the verdict said Ferrante’s testimony on the 10th day of the trial was not believable.
The jurors said they discredited a test that showed normal levels of cyanide in Klein’s blood in favor of a test that showed a lethal amount of the poison in her system, and favored the Allegheny County medical examiner’s ruling of homicide over medical experts for the defense, included famed forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht, who said Klein’s cause of death could not be determined.
Neighbor Marilyn Whitmore said she saw Ferrante walking the family’s dog one day and struck up a conversation with him. She asked if the animal, a Portuguese water dog named Nico, chased squirrels. Ferrante said he did not, Whitmore said.
“Then, he just mentioned that he had a daughter and a wife, and he seemed to be very happy living in this neighborhood.”
Prosecutors presented evidence showing Ferrante and Klein had a tumultuous marriage. Ferrante performed Google searches about Klein’s colleague, Dr. Thomas McElrath of Boston, “divorce Pittsburgh PA” and whether a wife could show physical signs of having an affair. Ferrante testified trouble stemmed from his lack of support of his wife’s desire to have another child. He said their relationship was on the mend.
Gold recalled Ferrante and Klein taking their daughter, Cianna, on walks beside her house. Cianna, 7, liked a statue of a man with flowers as hair that Gold kept on her steps outside.
Gold said they seemed like a normal family.
“You would not know anything was amiss,” she said.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or [email protected].