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A University of Pittsburgh researcher charged in the cyanide poisoning death of his wife last year was convicted on Friday of first-degree murder.
Dr. Robert Ferrante, who hung his head when the verdict was read in court, faces a mandatory life sentence in the April 2013 death of 41-year-old neurologist Dr. Autumn Klein.
The jury, which deliberated for 15 hours over two days, agreed with Allegheny County prosecutors who accused Ferrante of lacing his wife's creatine energy drink with cyanide. Klein's relatives burst into tears upon hearing the guilty verdict. "Justice for Autumn," said her mother, Lois Klein, of Towson, Maryland, outside court later.
The 66-year-old Ferrante denied poisoning his wife. His lawyers made the case that she might not have been poisoned at all, citing three defense experts who said that couldn't be conclusively proved. Ferrante said the cyanide he bought was for stem cell experiments he was conducting on Lou Gehrig's disease, because the toxin can be used to kill of neurological cells and thus simulate the disease in the lab.
But prosecutors said Ferrante was a "master manipulator" who concocted the plan to kill his wife after she pressured him to have a second child and because he may have feared she was having an affair or planned to divorce him. The key to the prosecution's case was a test on Klein's blood, drawn as doctors tried to save her, that revealed a lethal level of cyanide.