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Ex-medical researcher gets life term in wife’s cyanide death

February 4, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A former University of Pittsburgh Medical Center researcher has been sentenced to a mandatory term of life in prison without possibility of parole in the cyanide poisoning death of his neurologist wife.

Sixty-six-year-old Robert Ferrante was convicted in November of first-degree murder in the April 2013 death of 41-year-old Dr. Autumn Klein. Prosecutors said he laced her energy drink with cyanide.

The victim’s mother, Lois Klein, said in a statement read in court Wednesday by an assistant prosecutor that the murder had robbed her and her husband of their only child.

She said, “The light of our lives has now been extinguished.”

Ferrante has steadfastly denied poisoning Klein by putting cyanide he acknowledged ordering for his research laboratory into a creatine energy drink he allegedly gave her in April 2013, when she came home from work late one night. She immediately collapsed and died three days later, authorities said.

Prosecutors showed the jury text messages in which Ferrante told Klein the drink might help her ovulate and conceive a second child, which witnesses said Klein was obsessed with having. Ferrante, though outwardly supportive, allegedly resented that, however, and feared Klein might divorce him so he killed her instead, according to prosecutors.

A prominent researcher into Lou Gehrig’s disease, Ferrante testified he bought the poison only because he used it to mimic the disease’s effects on healthy cells in his laboratory. But he also testified that he didn’t greet Klein at the couple’s back door and hand her the energy drink the night she fell suddenly ill, even though police detectives said Ferrante told them that’s what happened when they first interviewed him.

Jurors indicated that alleged change of Ferrante’s story, and other evidence, prompted them to reject his denials and convict him.

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