PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - Jury selection began on Tuesday in the case of a University of Pittsburgh professor charged with killing his physician wife last year by poisoning her with cyanide.
Robert Ferrante, 66, who taught neurological surgery, is accused of using cyanide he ordered through his medical research lab to kill his 41-year-old wife, Autumn Klein, a successful neurologist.
Ferrante is set to stand trial for homicide at the Allegheny County Court in Pittsburgh. A trial date has not been set.
On April 17, 2013, Klein was taken to a hospital, where witnesses described her as being "morbidly ill," according to an affidavit obtained by Reuters. Ferrante called 911 and said his wife may have had a stroke, the complaint said.
Klein died three days later at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Presbyterian hospital, where she worked as chief of the division of women's neurology.
She was a successful doctor who worked as an assistant professor of neurology and in gynecology at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Magee-Womens Hospital in addition to her role at the university's Presbyterian Hospital.
The month of her death, Klein considered leaving Ferrante, calling him controlling and saying that she felt their relationship was troubled, he complaint said, citing cell phone text messages from Klein to a friend.
Text messages from Klein also indicated that on the day she got sick, she may have been trying to have another child with Ferrante, the complaint said.
Ferrante had repeatedly suggested she take the supplement creatine for fertility and was seen tasting the substance by a witness in his lab, according to the complaint.
Paramedics saw white powder in a vial and plastic bag near Kline's body when they came to take her to the hospital, the complaint said.
When searching Ferrante's lab, investigators found a container of cyanide that he had ordered, the complaint said.
The container was missing 8.3 grams of the white powder, which witnesses say was not used for any known research projects, the complaint said.
A county medical examiner was able to find enough cyanide in blood samples taken from Kline before Ferrante had her cremated to determine she was poisoned, the complaint said. Ferrante was charged shortly after.
A gag order was issued in August, preventing witnesses and lawyers from publicly discussing the case to prevent bias.
A representative for Ferrante's lawyer on Tuesday declined to comment on the case.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Daley; Editing by Laila Kearney and Susan Heavey)