Judge freezes assets of Pitt researcher accused in cyanide poisoning of wife

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An Allegheny County Common Pleas judge agreed to keep frozen the bank accounts of a researcher accused of killing his wife, although he will allow the man to have access to some money to pay his legal bills.

Robert Ferrante, a University of Pittsburgh researcher, was charged last month with killing his wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, with cyanide in April. The Allegheny County District Attorney's office previously obtained an order from Judge David R. Cashman seizing the man's assets, and today, the judge continued that order.

According to Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus, the couple held joint accounts totaling just under $900,000, while Mr. Ferrante holds several accounts totaling about $2.5 million.

They have a young daughter, and Judge Cashman will preside over a custody hearing on Wednesday. It is likely that some of Mr. Ferrante's funds will be used for her care, while Mr. Difenderfer said attorneys were already working to use Klein's assets for the girl.

Defense attorney William Difenderfer requested the judge leave one account, containing just under $280,000 available for trial consts including experts and investigators.

"It is going to be very costly," he said. Mr. Difenderfer also asked the court to give him permission to revisit the asset issue at a later date.

Also during the brief hearing this afternoon, Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini requested the court issue a gag order to limit the parties involved from speaking to the media about the case.

Mr. Difenderfer told Judge Cashman he has limited his remarks to the media.

"I think I made every effort to not talk about the facts of the case," he said. "I don't intend to try this case in the media, and I won't."

Judge Cashman granted the request.

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