Pittsburgh police probe possible cyanide death

AP News
Posted: Nov 14, 2014 4:45 PM

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Police, prosecutors and the county medical examiner are investigating whether a woman who died recently had cyanide in her system.

Allegheny County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams told The Associated Press he's "concerned" about the case and was waiting for preliminary test results Friday which could tell him if the poison was in the woman's system. If so, other tests will have to be done to determine if there was a lethal level of poison involved, Williams said.

Pittsburgh media outlets reported that the woman was a medical researcher at Magee Womens Hospital of UPMC.

Susan Manko, spokeswoman for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, confirmed the health network was contacted by police Thursday night and has been fully cooperating with police in the investigation, but she wouldn't release other details.

The investigation comes a week after a former UPMC researcher, Dr. Robert Ferrante, was convicted of fatally poisoning his wife, UPMC neurologist Dr. Autumn Klein, with cyanide last year. There are no indications the two deaths are related.

It was not immediately clear whether authorities believe the woman who died recently was purposely killed, committed suicide or came into contact with the poison some other way, such as a laboratory accident.

Williams would not say when or where the woman died, explaining he wanted to keep such information confidential until investigators know more.

Police and the district attorney's office also declined to release details.

"City police and the medical examiner are investigating the death of a woman in which cyanide may have played a role," district attorney's spokesman Mike Manko said. "However, the medical examiner has not determined either a cause or manner of death."

The cause of death is the physical reason a person died, such as poisoning. Manner refers to whether the death was a homicide, suicide, accident, natural or could not be conclusively determined.