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Pitt researcher says he's not guilty in wife's death by cyanide

| Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 2:33 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Attorney Bill Difenderfer talks to the media in the Allegheny County Courthouse on Tuesday July 30, 2013. His client, Dr. Robert Ferrante, is in the Allegheny County Jail on one charge of criminal homicide in the death of his wife, Dr. Autumn Marie Klein, a UPMC pathologist who died April 20, 2013.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Bill and Lois Klein walk hand-in-hand in the Allegheny County Courthouse on Tuesday July 30, 2013. Their daughter, Dr. Autumn Marie Klein, a UPMC pathologist, died April 20, 2013, with a lethal amount of cyanide in her system.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Bill Klein (center) walks the Allegheny County Courthouse Tuesday July 30, 2013. His daughter, Dr. Autumn Marie Klein, a UPMC pathologist, died April 20 with a lethal amount of cyanide in her system. Her husband, Dr. Robert Ferrante, a UPMC neurologist, entered a 'not guilty' plea for the single charge of criminal homicide and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Sept. 23.

He has been a husband, a suspect, a fugitive and then a prisoner in West Virginia.

On Tuesday, Robert Ferrante, 64, of Schenley Farms became a defendant charged in Allegheny County with the death of his wife, Autumn Marie Klein, 41, a UPMC neurologist.

Allegheny County Judge David R. Cashman informed Ferrante, a neuroscientist appearing via video conference from the Allegheny County Jail, of the single charge of criminal homicide and scheduled his preliminary hearing for Sept. 23.

Ferrante's attorney, Bill Difenderfer, entered a not guilty plea. Ferrante is being held without bond. Difenderfer told the judge he may address bond at a later date.

Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini asked that Ferrante not be permitted to have contact with his daughter or any witness in the case.

Cashman will preside over a custody hearing for Ferrante and Klein's daughter Cianna, 6, at 9:30 a.m. Monday and a hearing concerning Ferrante's assets at 1:30 p.m.

Ferrante wore a white button-down shirt with a red jail-issued shirt over it for his arraignment hearing. Klein's parents, Bill and Lois Klein, sat in the back of the third floor courtroom in the Allegheny County Courthouse with a detective by their side. They declined comment.

Difenderfer said Ferrante is “devastated” about losing his wife and “double-devastated” about the charge against him. Ferrante will undergo a mental health evaluation while at the jail, a normal procedure, he said.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Difenderfer said.

Investigators allege Ferrante bought cyanide with a Pitt credit card on April 15 and had it shipped overnight to his laboratory. Two days later, paramedics found Klein unresponsive on the kitchen floor of the pair's home.

She died April 20 at UPMC Presbyterian with a lethal amount of cyanide in her system.

West Virginia State Police arrested Ferrante on Thursday. Ferrante on Monday waived his extradition from West Virginia.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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