Robert Ferrante, a doctor who worked at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, was convicted by a Pennsylvania jury yesterday of murdering his wife by poisoning her with cyanide.
Prosecutors alleged that marital problems, including suspicions of infidelity, caused Ferrante to kill Autumn Marie Klein, who was a neurologist. The couple met while working together at a Bedford hospital and married in 2001. They relocated to Pittsburgh to work at the University of Pittsburgh.
There was no dispute at trial that the defendant purchased the cyanide, which was paid for with a university-issued credit card. Ferrante claimed to have bought the poison as part of his research, but his colleagues said there was not a project that would have required it. The cyanide was delivered on April 15, 2013, and prosecutors alleged that Ferrante gave the poison to Klein on April 17th after she came home following a 15-hour workday. Klein collapsed in the kitchen and Ferrante called 911, saying he believed Klein might have suffered a stroke. Klein died after being on life-support in the hospital for three days.
Investigators discovered that Ferrante had done Google searches related to cyanide and cyanide poisoning. The defendant’s attorneys argued to the jury that the Google searches were related to his research. The jurors didn’t buy the defendant’s arguments and convicted him following 15 hours of deliberations. Several of the jurors were interviewed after the trial and said the defendant hurt himself by testifying at trial. While saying he had “excellent coaches,” the jurors were bothered by inconsistencies in his story, including changing descriptions of where he was located as his wife drank the poison. Ferrante will be sentenced on February 4th to life in prison.
Ferrante becomes the latest doctor with ties to Massachusetts to be convicted of murdering his wife.
Wellesley Doctor Dirk Greineder was a prominent allergist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston when he beat his wife with a hammer and slashed her throat in a park close to their home in 1999. She died as a result of her injuries. When he testified at his trial, Dr. Greineder told the jury that after his wife lost interest in sex, he hired prostitutes and had had sex with strangers. He denied killing his wife, but his DNA was found on the murder weapons and he had blood on his clothes. He was convicted of first-degree murder and is currently serving a life sentence.
Richard Sharpe was a dermatologist who was on the staff at Harvard Medical School. He shot his wife to death in 2000 in their Wenham home in front of her brother and other witnesses. The case gained national attention when photographs surfaced of Dr. Sharpe wearing dresses and fishnet stockings. He testified that he began cross-dressing at a young age and didn’t remember much about the shooting. He hired an expert who testified at his trial that he suffered from a number of mental illnesses. Nevertheless, the jury convicted him of murder and he was sentenced to life in prison, where he committed suicide in 2009.