Neuroscientist Faces Trial in Wife's Cyanide Poisoning Death

Dr. Robert Ferrante on trial, accused of poisoning his wife with energy drink.

October 23, 2014, 10:08 AM

— -- Opening statements are expected to begin today at the trial of a University of Pittsburgh neuroscientist accused of poisoning his neurologist wife with an energy drink laced with cyanide.

Dr. Robert Ferrante, 65, allegedly gave his wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, 41, the drink on April 17, 2013, telling her that it would help her get pregnant. That same day, the couple exchanged text messages about how a creatine regimen could help them conceive.

According to a criminal complaint obtained by ABC News, Klein wrote, “Will it stimulate egg production too?”

Ferrante allegedly responded with a smiley face.

Klein collapsed in her home. She died on April 20, 2013, at UPMC Presbyterian, where she was chief of the division of women's neurology and an assistant professor of neurology, obstetrics and gynecology.

Police documents allege that Ferrante did not want an autopsy performed, and instructed that Klein’s body be cremated. Despite those instructions, an autopsy was performed, revealing a lethal amount of cyanide in her system.

Ferrante -- considered a leading researcher of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS -- allegedly had a bottle of cyanide shipped overnight to his lab at the University of Pittsburgh two days before his wife collapsed, using a university credit card.

Additionally, hours after a police interview following Klein’s death, Ferrante allegedly performed a Google search, writing, “Would ECMO or dialysis remove traces of toxins poisons?”

Police say Ferrante suspected his wife was having an affair. He was arrested in July 2013, charged with one count of criminal homicide. He has pleaded not guilty.

ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams said the trial will likely become a battle of medical experts.

“How much cyanide was in her body is the crucial piece of evidence,” Abrams said. “The defense is expected to dispute the reliability of the blood tests. That will be a big part of the case.”

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