Man accused of poisoning wife to face extradition

Posted at 7:32 AM, Jul 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-29 07:36:20-04

By John Berman, CNN

(CNN) — A University of Pittsburgh research professor faces an extradition hearing in West Virginia on Monday as authorities seek his return to Pennsylvania where he’s accused of killing his wife with a lethal dose of cyanide.

Robert Ferrante is not expected to put up a fight.

“He’s anxious to defend himself, have his day in court, prove his innocence,” said Ferrante’s defense attorney William Difenderfer.

Ferrante is accused of killing Autumn Klein, a 41-year-old accomplished Pittsburgh doctor. She was the former head of women’s neurology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Ferrante is a researcher and professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh.

As part of his position there, Ferrante managed a laboratory where he conducts trials of various drugs and chemicals, according to a criminal complaint.

According to the complaint, text messages were found between the couple on April 17, the day Klein fell ill. The exchange included Ferrante suggesting creatine to Klein in hopes of stimulating egg production.

The complaint also alleges that a day earlier, Ferrante placed an order for an “overnight delivery of cyanide.”

Investigators allege that Ferrante laced the creatine with cyanide.

Cyanide is a naturally occurring toxic substance that can be found in seeds of different plants. It is widely distributed throughout research laboratories as a chemical used in scientific experiments.

Cyanide interferes with the ability of the body to use oxygen to produce energy, which can lead to rapid death.

On April 17, Allegheny County 911 dispatch received a call from Ferrante requesting medical assistance for his wife, who he said was possibly having a stroke, the complaint read. He described her condition as “conscious and breathing, but not alert.”

When paramedics arrived, they found the victim on the floor of the kitchen with a plastic bag containing creatine.

She died April 20.

According to Karl Williams, chief medical examiner of Allegheny County, there is no connection with creatine and fertility. Creatine is a supplement that bodybuilders uses to increase body mass, Williams said.

“The amazing amount of subpoenas of investigation that went in to determining in fact that it was a homicide. That’s what took so long,” Williams said.

Ferrante’s arrest Thursday ended a nationwide manhunt. Officials said West Virginia State Police apprehended him after his car was stopped while heading north on Interstate 77 near Beckley, West Virginia.

“He was relatively quiet,” said State Police Sgt. William Tupper. “He knew there were warrants for him. Said he was en route back to Pittsburgh.”

Ferrante has been placed on immediate and indefinite leave from his university, according to school spokesman John Andrew Fedele.

Sole and legal custody of Ferrante’s child has been placed with the maternal grandparents, according to a statement form the district attorney’s office.

His financial assets have also been frozen.

–CNN’s Erinn Cawthon and Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley contributed to this report.