University of Pittsburgh neuroscientist suspected in wife’s cyanide killing waives extradition
BECKLEY, W.Va. — Robert Ferrante waived extradition Monday in a West Virginia courtroom, allowing his immediate return to Pittsburgh to face homicide charges in connection with the death of his wife Autumn Marie Klein, 41, a UPMC neurologist.
West Virginia State Police arrested Ferrante, 64, of Schenley Farms Thursday as he drove from his sister’s home in St. Augustine, Fla., to Pittsburgh. Ferrante’s defense attorney, William Difenderfer, said his client intended to turn himself in to authorities in Pittsburgh.
During the 10-minute hearing, Ferrante spoke little. He leaned into a microphone and clearly answered, “Yes sir” and “No sir,” to a series of formal questions Raleigh County Chief Circuit Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick asked.
Marcia Hebb, a Beckley-based public defender who represented him at the hearing, said she spoke with Ferrante for several hours Friday about his decision to waive extradition. She would not comment further on the case or Ferrante’s demeanor. Ferrante maintained a straight, expressionless face during the hearing. He kept his head down as he shuffled in and out of the courtroom, restrained by leg shackles and handcuffs. He wore an orange jail jumpsuit.
Mike Manko, spokesman for Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said city police plan to arrive in Beckley Tuesday morning to get Ferrante.
He has an arraignment scheduled Tuesday afternoon before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman, said Difenderfer.
Investigators allege Ferrante, co-director of the Center for ALS Research and a visiting professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, bought a bottle of cyanide with a Pitt credit card on April 15 and had it shipped overnight to his laboratory, according to the affidavit in the criminal complaint. Two days later, paramedics found Klein unresponsive on the kitchen floor of the pair’s home and took her to UPMC Presbyterian. She died April 20 with a lethal amount of cyanide in her system.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Klein died of cyanide poisoning and that it was a homicide.
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or [email protected].