Unshaven and somber, Robert J. Ferrante shuffled through arrest paperwork and squinted into a camera while a local judge arraigned him Tuesday afternoon in connection with his wife's cyanide poisoning death.
Dressed in a white-collared shirt layered under a red jail jumpsuit, Mr. Ferrante, 64, of Oakland sat silently in his chair at the Allegheny County Jail while Common Pleas Judge David Cashman told him via a video feed that he had been charged with killing his wife, Autumn Klein, the head of women's neurology at UPMC.
His attorney, William Difenderfer, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
It was Mr. Ferrante's first local court appearance in the case. Others are expected in the coming weeks.
On Monday, there will be a closed hearing to discuss the order granting custody of the couple's 6-year-old daughter, Cianna, to Klein's parents and a hearing discussing the order freezing financial assets Mr. Ferrante kept in 15 different institutions. Both orders were signed around the time detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Mr. Ferrante.
A preliminary hearing to decide whether there is enough evidence to warrant a trial on one count of homicide is scheduled for Sept. 23.
"We have a lot of work to do," Mr. Difenderfer said. "Obviously he's devastated by losing his wife."
In the interim, Judge Cashman has ordered Mr. Ferrante to be held in the Allegheny County Jail without bond. Mr. Ferrante also will undergo a behavioral evaluation while in jail, which is standard practice in a homicide case.
Assistant district attorney Lisa Pellegrini requested and received an order barring Mr. Ferrante from contacting his daughter, who "is a material witness as well as the maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Klein." Exactly what the young girl saw is unclear.
Detectives wrote in an arrest affidavit that Mr. Ferrante called 911 about 11:52 p.m. on April 17 and said his wife had collapsed in their Oakland home. They also wrote that Mr. Ferrante asked a lab assistant to purchase cyanide, which was not needed for his research, two days before his wife collapsed.
Investigators obtained dozens of search warrants in their effort to build a case against Mr. Ferrante. Fourteen search warrant applications, most of them dated from May 3 to May 10, were made available this week and provide some small glimpses into Mr. Ferrante's behavior early in the investigation.
An affidavit of probable cause says Mr. Ferrante told detectives that he convinced his wife to take a creatine supplement to improve her fertility. Klein, who told family and friends she wanted to have another child, took 5 grams of creatine in the morning and 5 at night.
"Dr. Ferrante said that Creatine has an awful taste, so he would mix it in a sugary drink or would mix it with cinnamon sugar and put it on the victim's toast in the morning," Detective James McGee wrote in the application for a search warrant.
Several people who have studied or worked with creatine said they have not heard of the substance being used to promote fertility.
Among the locations searched during the investigation included Mr. Ferrante's 2011 Hyundai Sonata, the couple's home, Mr. Ferrante's labs at Scaife Hall at UPMC, as well as at the VA Medical Centers on Highland Drive and University Drive.
The warrants were seeking information related to cyanide, including "any and all items that are capable of storing, transporting or delivering" the poison; "as well as computers or laptops that may include cyanide information and all chemical logs that would track to usage or distribution of cyanide."
Mr. Ferrante was arrested in West Virginia last week. Mr. Difenderfer said his client had been visiting his sister in St. Augustine, Fla., and was driving back to Pittsburgh to surrender when West Virginia state police arrested him on Interstate 77 near Beckley, W.Va.
Liz Navratil: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard. First Published July 30, 2013 6:15 PM