Ferrante, wife were at odds over trip
The day Robert Ferrante received a bottle of cyanide, he sent his wife an email acknowledging that she didn’t want him to tag along on a trip to Boston to meet a male colleague.
“I thought it would be such a wonderful idea going to Boston together. We have not been back alone there,” Ferrante wrote to his wife, Dr. Autumn Marie Klein, on April 16, 2013. “If you would like, I will not go to Boston and I will stay home and take care of your parents that weekend.”
The email, titled “May 9 and 10,” gave jurors another glimpse into the couple’s crumbling relationship.
Prosecutors say Ferrante was jealous of the colleague, Boston fetal medical specialist Thomas McElrath.
“It seems obvious to me now that you want to go to Boston alone. I won’t go if that will make you less stressed, and I will make sure all is okay with your parents,” Ferrante wrote in the email.
Friday marked the end of the first full week of testimony in Ferrante’s homicide trial. He is accused of poisoning Klein, 41, a UPMC neurologist. Klein collapsed in the couple’s Oakland home on April 17, 2013, and died at UPMC Presbyterian three days later.
Prosecutors have said Ferrante performed Internet searches about Dr. McElrath and searches about cheating spouses. They said Klein and McElrath were friends, but she and Ferrante were unhappy in their marriage.
Ferrante has denied involvement in his wife’s death. His lawyers have said they will prove Klein did not die of cyanide poisoning and have disputed tests showing differing amounts of the substance in her blood.
Testifying for the prosecution, McElrath spoke for fewer than 10 minutes, answering only a few questions from defense attorneys on cross examination.
McElrath said he knew Klein for eight years.
He said their practices coincided in treating pregnant women, and they developed a clinic together.
He said they attended several conferences together, including one in Atlanta and, most recently, in San Francisco in February 2013.
They were scheduled to meet in May 2013, and he said he invited Klein and her husband to stay at his home.
“It was an open invitation,” McElrath said.
“You extended the invitation for her husband as well?” Ferrante’s attorney, William Difenderfer, asked.
“Yes. It was made through Autumn,” McElrath said. “I had never met the defendant.”
Dr. Todd Luckasevic, a toxicologist for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office, testified that an autopsy of Klein’s brain found lack of blood and oxygen that was “consistent with a toxic level of cyanide.”
Prosecution witnesses have testified that at least three tests confirmed cyanide in Klein’s blood but differed on whether the amount was fatal.
Quest Diagnostics reported 2.2 milligrams of cyanide per liter of blood. NMS Labs in suburban Philadelphia botched a test on the earliest blood sample collected from Klein a half-hour after her hospital admittance.
Luckasevic, who determined Klein died of cyanide poisoning, said the amount of the poison is not significant, considering that some tests were performed more than two weeks after her blood was drawn and the cyanide could have evaporated.
“A positive cyanide finding is an abnormality, period,” he said.