In February 2015, Dr. Robert Joseph Ferrante was sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole after being convicted of murdering his wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, two years prior. Klein, described by friends and family as careless and intelligent, worked as the chief of women’s neurology at UPMC.
Ferrante was 66 at the time of his sentencing. In court, Sharon King, Klein’s cousin and close friend, said, “This tragic murder strikes to the core of my belief that the world can be a safe place…”
Tonight, Dateline will investigate the murder an d Ferrante’s motive in her killing. Here’s what you need to know about Dr. Robert Joseph Ferrante:
1. He Was a Co-Director at the Center for ALS Research
Ferrante and Klein both worked in the medical field.
Klein had completed her dual MD/PhD program at Boston University in 2001, and met Ferrante while they were both working at the Bedford Veterans Administration Hospital. They married a year later.
According to Ferrante’s profile on Research Gate, he worked as a Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Skill, and a co-director at the Center of ALS Research.
Ferrante’s profile states that his interests lie “in the neuropathology and pathophysiological mechanisms of neurological disorders, particularly Huntington’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with a focus on animal models of disease, biomarker discovery, translational studies, and human clinical trials.”
2. Klein Is Reported to Have Died of Cyanide Poisoning
Klein’s blood revealed a lethal amount of cyanide in her body at her time of death. According to CBS News, her blood was drawn in the three days before her death, while she was at UPMC Presbyterian hospital. It wasn’t until after her death and cremation that doctors received the results of the blood work.
Authorities subsequently investigated Ferrante’s workplace. They found that he had purchased cyanide for his lab, even though he was not involved in any studies that required it, according to the Boston Globe.
Looking at Ferrante’s search history, authorities found online searches of cyanide poisoning and how it could be removed from medical treatments or detected by a coroner. The neuro-researcher told police that those searches were “related to his research and that the other searches were made simply as he tried to understand the treatment his wife received.”
3. Ferrante Shares a Daughter with Autumn Klein
After Klein’s death, Cianna, who was just 8, went to live with her grandparents, Lois and William Klein.
In court, Sharon King said, “This child now, is not only without a mother, she is also without a father. Autumn was a terrific mom to Cianna no matter how busy she was with her work.”
Robert also had two grown-up children from his first marriage. Klein hoped to have another child, and had undergone a series of failed IVF attempts before her death, according to Mirror. The outlet writes that Klein “was regularly drinking fertility-boosting energy drinks – anything she could to increase her chances – but nothing had worked.
4. He Appealed His Conviction in 2017
Ferrante, who was 28 years Klein’s senior, asked the Pennsylvania Superior Court to overturn his conviction for the first-degree murder of his wife in October 2017.
His lawyers argued that “the evidence didn’t sufficiently point to him, the investigators’ search warrants were too broad and the laboratory that concluded Klein had cyanide in her blood wasn’t credible,” reports Trib Live.
Ferrante’s attorney, Chris Rand Eyster, stated that jurors weren’t privy to a 2009 settlement to resolve claims against the Nichols Institute, which could have been “used to undermine the lab company’s credibility.” Furthermore, Eyster argued, the lab was the only one that produced results that stated Klein died of cyanide poisoning.
In response, prosecutors argued that the company’s relationship to Klein’s death was unimportant. “The evidence, they wrote, included Ferrante’s jealousy of Klein’s relationship with a colleague, the unusual order for cyanide through his lab, and the Internet search history.”
In 2018, the court upheld Ferrante’s cyanide conviction.
5. Multiple Reports Indicate He Feared His Wife Was Having an Affair
Reports suggest that Klein and Ferrante did not have a healthy marriage. He was said to be a “master manipulator” and feared she may have been having an affair and was close to divorcing him.
In court, Dr. Thomas McElrath, a client and friend of Klein, agreed that Ferrante was jealous. According to The Morning Call, “Ferrante did internet searches about McElrath followed by searches about cheating spouses.”
In court, McElrath said that Klein and Ferrante led an unhappy marriage.