Different test result cited in case of Pa. researcher charged with killing wife with cyanide

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PITTSBURGH — An attorney for a University of Pittsburgh medical researcher accused of killing his neurologist wife with cyanide says a new test by a different laboratory has called into question the cause of death.

Blood tests from Philadelphia-based forensic toxicology lab NMS differed from tests at Quest Diagnostics, said Wendy Williams, one of two lawyers representing University of Pittsburgh researcher Dr. Robert Ferrante.

Ferrante, 65, is accused of killing 41-year-old Dr. Autumn Marie Klein by lacing her energy drink with poison before she collapsed in April 2013. She died three days later.

Williams asked Judge Jeffrey Manning to order Quest Diagnostics to provide the defense with its policies and procedures for testing blood samples.

"We need it to review the testing procedures of Quest because the blood sample as tested for cyanide, when sent by the commonwealth to NMS, was negative for cyanide as a cause of death," Williams said.

Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini challenged the characterization that cyanide wasn't present.

Authorities have alleged that Ferrante had purchased more than a half-pound of cyanide using a university credit card just two days before his wife fell ill, even though the toxin isn't related to his research.

Detectives also alleged that they found evidence that Ferrante had done computer searches five days after his wife died to learn whether treatments Klein received after falling suddenly ill would have removed poison from her system.

Ferrante, who has denied involvement in Klein's death, is scheduled to go on trial in September on a charge of criminal homicide with a jury selected in Dauphin County due to pretrial publicity.

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