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DA wants to limit what Pitt researcher can spend on defense against homicide charge

| Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 12:12 p.m.

The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office wants a judge to prevent the University of Pittsburgh researcher accused of fatally poisoning his wife from spending more money on his defense, because it could be used as restitution if he's convicted.

Robert Ferrante, 65, is accused of lacing a creatine drink with cyanide to kill his wife, Autumn Marie Klein, 41, a prominent UPMC neurologist. Paramedics found Klein on April 17 on the kitchen floor of the couple's home in Oakland. She died at UPMC Presbyterian on April 20.

Ferrante's attorney, William Difenderfer, last month asked a judge to free additional funds so he could hire experts and investigators. Ferrante has about $2.2 million in six bank accounts, according to financial records compiled by the DA's office. He had received permission to spend $280,000 to defend himself against one count of criminal homicide.

Prosecutors argued in court documents filed Tuesday that if Ferrante is convicted, the untapped resources could be used to pay restitution to Klein's estate; damages and counseling for the couple's 7-year-old daughter, Cianna; and Klein's hospital costs of approximately $400,000.

They worry that if Ferrante is given access to additional money, he could give it away.

Ferrante transferred $50,000 from the couple's joint account to an account solely in his name on May 15; $126,050 from joint and individual accounts to his adult daughter in California, Kimberly Ferrante, between May 2011 and April 2013; and $130,455 from joint and individual accounts to his adult son in Boston, Michael R. Ferrante, between August 2011 and February 2013, the documents said.

He put $30,000 in cash in a safety deposit box for his daughter on May 18 in Florida, about a month before police arrested him.

Difenderfer did not return calls. He previously said the money he has requested does not include what Ferrante might inherit from Klein's estate.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning is schedule to hear more arguments on Monday. Legal experts have said not allowing Ferrante access to the money could be grounds for an appeal.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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