(BECKLEY, W.Va.) — A University of Pittsburgh researcher who was arrested in the cyanide poisoning death of his wife, a doctor, is being held in a West Virginia jail Friday as he awaits extradition to Pennsylvania.
Dr. Robert Ferrante, 64, was arrested on Thursday near Beckley, W.Va., after police received information he had left his sister’s home in St. Augustine, Fla., and was traveling north.
A Pittsburgh Police official said late Thursday that authorities had information Ferrante may have been planning to return to Pittsburgh when he was caught and that no additional charges were planned “at this point” based upon his trip from Florida.
Investigators believe Ferrante, who is considered a leading researcher of Lou Gehrig’s disease, killed his wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, 41, by lacing her creatine drink with cyanide on April 17, the same day the couple exchanged text messages about how a creatine regimen could help them conceive their second child, according to a criminal complaint.
Authorities previously acknowledged Klein had cyanide in her blood when she died but did not publicly label her death a homicide until Thursday.
A message left for Ferrante’s attorney, William Difenderfer, was not immediately returned. However, he has previously denied Ferrante is responsible for his wife’s death.
Klein collapsed at her home in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood and later died on April 20 at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, where she was chief of the division of women’s neurology and an assistant professor of neurology, obstetrics and gynecology.
When paramedics responded to Klein’s medical emergency on April 17, they saw a glass vial near a resealable, plastic bag holding a white substance, which Ferrante told them was creatine, the criminal complaint said.
On April 15, two days before Klein collapsed, he used a university credit card to overnight a delivery of cyanide, according to the complaint, despite having no active projects that involved the chemical.
Later, in the days before Klein fell ill, a witness saw Ferrante drinking samples of creatine mixed with water and sugar in the lab, according to the complaint.
The witness told police Ferrante put the creatine in a large, resealable bag and that the cyanide was locked in a safe that was only accessible to Ferrante and one other person.
Investigators said they discovered evidence that Ferrante had confronted his wife three times within weeks of her death as to whether she was having an affair, but stopped short of calling it a possible motive.
The couple have a 6-year-old daughter together, who has been placed in the custody of Klein’s parents, according to the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.
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