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tv   Meet the Press  NBC  July 22, 2019 2:30am-3:30am EDT

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she said that things were getting really bad there was no fear of anything, like what happened i don't know something snapped. i was shocked. i mean, i couldn't save my friendme >> a doctor cos home, but not for long >> i think my wife is having a stroke >> an hour later she was back ah hospital she just left >> she had this blank starin her eyes >> three days later, she was dead >> i said, she's my child. i gave birth to her. i want to know what happened to her. >> at first it was just a medical mystery. >> i'm seeing a healthy white female that, for all intentsound purposes, shld be alive. >> to them this was out of this
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world. st couldn't make any sense out of it. >> but it soon became a murdery. myster >> i said, are you sitting down? >> because once they discovered what killed her, the next question was who >> if he couldn't have her, noon was going to have her. >> i still haven't made sense of it i still haven't made sense of it>> i am lester holt, and thiss "dateline. here's dennis murphy with "lethal weheon." >> reporter: tmergency room trauma team was losing her she'd been wheeled in glassy-eyed and gasping for breath s >> her hearttopped, and they had to restart her heart >> reporter: and within minutes machines were doing the breathing and blood circulation for 41-year old autumnlein wife, mother, medical doctor, ae rising star in t of women's neurology. a star whose light was dimming
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even as they tried desperately to keep her going. >> thesere doctors who are treating trauma patients every day. this one had totally puzzled them >> reporter: the woman failing in the e.r., dr. klein, was in many ways what modern pittsburgh was all about. the gleaming downtown towers didn't need to worry anymore about grimy soot from the steel mill smokestacks along the the steel industry herd mostly died by the early '80s and moved overseas universities, technology, medicine and finance, that was the foundation of the new pittsburgh they called the renaissance. and robert ferrante and his wife, dr. autumn klein, relocated from boston, were juso the kindrenaissance minds the city was hoping to attract autumn's colleague, dr. karen roos >> she said that she lovedtt piurgh she loved her patients, that the
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people of pittsburgh were wondful and she was so happy to be there.ha >> reporter: autumn always intended to be a caregiver her cousin, close as sisters, sharon king, remembers that even a little girl she administered playtime tlc. >> we had a doctor's office. and our patients were our stuffed animals. >> reporter: and dr. autumn g klein was holdinclinic hours, huh? t >> she was doctor. >> reporter: it was an interest that took root early for autumn and never left always a top of her class student in the baltimore area. she later got her undergraduate degree in neuroscience from amherst. >> helping people was the main thing. she was just so smart, so intelligent, so thoughtful and so caring. >> reporter: you and your husband must have been very, very proud of her. >> we were >> reporter: lois klein is autumn's mom >> we knew that she was putting
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her mind on her studies, and we were giving her the best bleducation we could possiy give her, and she was taking advantage of it. >> reporter: med school was a a certainty. autuounced she was heading to boston. her mother worried the city's crime rate was too high. >> she said, i'm going to boston university medical school. and i said, no, you're not and she said, yes, i am. and i said, no, you're not and she said, yes, i am. and she went to boston university medical school. she had a mind of her own. >> reporter: in medical school autumn developed a romantic thing for a research colleague and he for her robe ferrante, bob to his friends, held a ph.d. in neuroscience and w hunting for cures to devastating brain illnesses like lou gehrig's and huntinon's diseases. he was also more than 20 years her senior, divorced with two grown kids >> i simply told her that that fwas a little bit too old her. i didn't think that that was the right e. >> reporter: but two days before graduation from med school a determined autumn, wasting no time, was walking down the aisle with her much older bridegroom and what was your impression of him, sharon? >> nice guy, a charming guy. a bit heady, you know? >> reporter: egghead
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>> yeah. >> reporter: nerdy >> yeah. and she kind of was and she kind of wasn't, you know. r >>eporter: the couple made a home just ouide boston in a few years, a baby girl arrived into their hectic lives. autumn took it in stride >> a 2:00 a.m. diaper change i e's, you know -- i mean, a 2:00 a.m. call from the hospital, you have to come in ti take care of this pat, you know, she's used to that >> reporter: the new mother was becoming a sought-after specialist in neurological ailments in women. because of her expertise, she was interviewed for an educational video distributed by the discovery channel. >> women with epilepsy really need to be started on a seizure medication in advance of pregnancy. >> reporter: but autumn was growing frustrated with boston and professionally she felt as though she'd crested there that's when pittsburgh loomed w. into v in 2011 the university of pittsburgh and it's renowned
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sister medical center offered an ideal career move. for bob, a new research lab. for autumn, a ance to head her own department >> autumn was not just a rising star she was a shooting star. she was nationally recognized as a leader in her eld at a very young age. >> reporter: but still, something was gnawing at her, a kind oe emotional vacuum shwanted to have another child. by now had her early 40s, she was taking fertility treatments, hormone injections but nothing was happening. was it really hating away at her, tshe wasn't getting pregnant, time was going by? >> yes and, you know, just speaking from experience, fertility treatments are the loneliest place a woman will ever go >> reporter: looking back, her mom, lois, recognizes now some worrisome signs, changes in her daughterin >> i kd of saw that she wasn't herself too much anymore, that she was kind of a little -- what do you call it -- kind of a little down maybe here and there.
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>> reporter: then in early 2013 the couple tried a new approach to the baby problem a fertility doctor thought the body-building supplement known as creatine just might help autumn get pregnant. asd t turned out, her husban bob had been using the stuff in his research so on april 17th autumn klein seemed ready to give creatine a try. "i ovulate tomorrow.day, he answered, perfect timing. creatine smiley face. itthese are hospital secur camera pictures that show autumn throughout the day and leaving work late that night ten minutes later she was home and minutes after that her husband, bob ferrante, was on the phone to 911>> allegheny co the address of your emergency? >> hello ease, please, please >> reporter: his wife slumped on the kitchen floor, gasping for
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breathsp the diatcher asked the husband what he was seeing >> i think my wife is having a stroke >> reporter: paramedic steve mason and his partner arrived at the ferrante home to find a woman in very bad shape >> she was lyi on her back on n the kitcheoor.d her eyes were ope was unresponsive >> reporter: an hour after walking home from the medical center where she worked,le dr. autumn k, seen here in hospital surveillance footage, was back as a gravely ill patient in its emergency room. and whatever was happening to her was a medical mystery to the team trying to keep her alive. then they saw the blood. so neon red, so out of their experience when we come back, autumn is surrounded by some of the best doctors in the country but no doctor o n work miracles. >>em, this was out of this world. just couldn't make any sense out of it. >> maybe someone else could.
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. that i won the "best of" i casweepstakes it and i get to be in this geico commercihe? let's do tyebrows first, just tease it a little. slather it all over, don't hold back. well, the squirrely followed me all the t to california! and there's a very strange badger staring at me... no, i can't believe how easy it was to save hundreds of dollars on my car insurance with geico. uh-huh, where's the camel? "mr. big shot's" got his own trailer. ♪ wheeeeeee! believe it! geico could save you 15% or m
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dr. autumnin had been rushed by ambulance to the e.r of the university of pittsburgh medical center after slumpg to the kitchen floor of her home. w
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>>e thought that there was definitely a possibity of a stroke and we knew that she was in critical condition >> reporter: now the trauma team ngsurrounding her was tryi desperately to keep her vital signs going. alan jennings, at the time a urporter with nbc's pittsbgh affiliate wpxi, covered the story. he recounted what doctors later said about that night.hi >> she had tblank stare in her eyes barely a pulse >> reporter: aha they didn't know wt had happened to her? >> no, they didn't >> reporter: autumn was struggling tinbreathe. >> and theomes the ventilator >> reporter: the ventilator, the machines are now taking over >> the machines taking over to keep her alive so they can - until they can determine what the world was going on >> rorter: at some point, alan, did they realize that this is one of their own? this is that brilliant, young doctor that works in the women's neurology unit >> they did at one pt nt i don't know thaey would have treated anyone any differently, but she was one of them one of the team. >> reporter: when autumn's husband, medical researcher bob ferrante, arrived in the trauma room, he tried to give the team
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some of his wife's medical history. he explained she'd been on fertility hormones >> she had headaches, fainting spells, and that she generally was expressing that she hadn't been feeling well. >> reporter: he told the e.r doctors he thought his wife had suffered a stroke, though diagnostic tests said otrwise. by then bob ferrante had already called his father and mother-in-law at their home near baltimore with the bad news. autumn's mother lois klein said they got in the car immediately to drive through the night to pittsburgh she was counting out the exits >> and i said, please, let me get to frederick then, please, let me get to hagerstown please let me get to hancock and please let me get to pittsburgh. >> reporter: back in the e.r., a resident trying to rally
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autumn's failing body std k an i.v. into her de something quite odd -- her blood in his tube showed shocking red and the observation of that doc atodhe bedside that this blo is too red why am i seeing blood this brilliantly red saturation >> to them this was out of this world. just couldn't make any sense out of it. >> reporter: eventually, autumn went into cardiac arrest docts managed to bring her back, barely >> they actually took turns doing chest compressions to try to get some reaction from her, to try to get her heart moving and pumping ain.th >> reporter: ano doctor revied autumn's symptoms and ordered up a test. he wanted a toxicology screen of her blood.ho s passed her blood was beinmapumped into a chine that was doing the oxygenating work of her heart and lungs. at some por t word had reached usin, sharon, now living in washington state. sharon talked by phone to nt autumn's fraic husband bob ands
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wagrateful for his medical background >> he was calling his colleagues you neow, he knows this ologist or this person, this, you know -- great. use your resources you know, i had no idea what was going onr: >> reporteventually, though, autumn lost brain function by the time her parents finally made it to the hospital, they could see there was little hope for their daughter >> they had a lot of tubes and things hooked up to her. and i held her hand, and i talked to her. and i told her, you healy everybse's brain why can't you heal your own? >> reporter: sharon wanted desperately to fly out from washington stateheo see autumn, but aunt lois told her to wait >> that's my other half in that hospital bed i need to be there >> reporter: doctors managed to keep autumn alive for two full days at some point sharon could tell that autumn's grieving husband
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had run out of hope. >> and he did say to me, i'mth going to go spend last night with the love of my life and at the time i thought, it's not over yet suite, everyone knew is.e.r. autumn's little girl was brought to her bedside >> she made some comment to somebody about, i don't think mommy's ever going to come home again.or >> rter: on the third day after she'd been wheeled io the e.r., autumn'sxhausted colleagues pronounced her dead and turned off the machines keeping her alive. it doesn't make sense t s like her. you know, she was there for everything >> reporter: autumn's husband and family now had fd eral plans to make en darker days to get through, but one person wasn't done with the mysterious case of autumn klein his work was just getting started. dr. todd luckasevic, associate medical examer for allegheny county, performed the autopsy on autumn
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>> it was regarded as a sudden, unexpeed death >> reporter: which meant the county needed to figure out why this otherwi healthy woman was dead there was no reason to suspect fertility hormones, vitamins or supplements like creatine could have led to her collapse her brain showed no signs of a stroke though an examination of the heart did reveal an abnormally shaped heart valve >> it's a congenital anomaly found in approximately 2% of the population >> reporter: does it lead to early death? >> not in your 40s you need to be symptomatic >> reporter: at the conclusion of autumn klein's autopsy, the exdical examiner was perpled as to what killed this woman >> i'm not seeing anything i'm seeing a healthy white female, that for all intents and purposes, should be alive. >> reporter: on the form that fo askecause of death, dr. luckasevic wrote "pending," no definitive answer but in a few days' time he would have more information. the bloodwork was back from lee lab. autumn had suffered a very unnatural death. coming up -- what exactly had killed aumn
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two days after allegheny county's associate medical exiner perfoed his autopsy on autumn klein, the phone rang. the voice on the other end was from the hospital. autumn's blood tests were back dr. todd luckasevic was startled to hr what the lab found >> lethal, deadly amount of cyanide. >> reporter: what did that tell you? >> that told me that i have a cause of death now >> reporter: cyanide mps and the jonestown massacre of the '70s. lethal, fast-killing stuff, not a common cause of death. >> i've done approximately 3,500 cases in my career, and this is my first case of cyanide poisoning. >> reporter: the lab's toxicology work found cyanide levels of 3.35 milligrams per liter in autumn's blood. so this is a lot of cyanide. >> that is correct >> reporter: still, he needed to confirm the results with his own tests. he wanted to re-examine autumn's remains to see if he could find cyanide in other parts of her
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body but by then he had released it to the funeral home. so here's an easy solution you go back to the body and you take a second look >> would love to when we got the phone call on tuesday that she had a lethal level of cyanide in her blood, i called immediately the funeral home, and she had already been cremated >> reporter: but the m. still had samples of autumn's blood. its toxicology unit performed its own test for cyanide analyst alesia smith added simple solutn to the blood if cyanide was present in the sample, it would turn the center well of this disc purple she and luckasevic demonstrated what they found. >> this example that we used today is very re kesentative of autuin's sample. it's almost identical. >> reporter: sure enough, the sample changed color >> her color change was a deep, kind of dark purplish-pink and it was obviously positive for cyanide. >> reporter: does that saturation of color tell you you got a lethal amount? >> oh yes, definitely.
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any amount, even the one milligram per liter, even the light pink color change means there's cyanide there, a significant, toxic, if not lethal amount cyanide present. >> reporter: autumn klein had diedf cyanide poisoning, no question about it, he said he grew even me confident whenwe he reviethe details of how she had collapsed and suffered n cyanide, once ingested, quickly starve the body of oxygen >> so oxygen's on the blood, but 's not being utilized by the body >> reporter: it was the trapped oxygen that had turned the blood in autumn's veins at vivid red. he also considered the 911 call. as her husband is being for help, autumn could be heard moaning in the background. >> now she's, like, having a seizure, like she's -- jesus christmas, sweetheart! >> reporter: luckasevic says that was likely autumn struggling to breathe, another important sign that cyanide was in her system. he knew he had a bizarnd death
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on his handsmmediately contacted the police >> i call the detectives, and i let them know, cause of death is cyanide poisoning. you need to help me with the manner of death. >> reporter: he wanted to knowit if autumn had commted suicide or been poisoned, in other words murderedot >> there was a ne on my desk saying that the coroner's office had a woman come in who had a lethal level of cyide in her system >> reporter: cyanide poisoning >> yes >> reporter: how many of those have you seen in your career >> this is my first one. >> reporter: soon autumn's mom was given the news about the blood results. she then called her niece, sharon king, out in washington >> she said, are you sitting down i was like, okay then she said was cyanide >> reporter: just like that. >> and i was shocked and i couldn't say anything. couldn't catch my breath
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>> reporter: when autumn's colleague dr. karen roos heard about it, she knew right away her friend had suffered an agonizing death. >> as a medical professional, i know about how people die of cyanide poisoning, and i couldn't dwell on that old agatha christie cozy murder mystery about a cyanide oning in the village, th inspector was about to call. pittsburgh's senior investigators were en routrato talk to robert fe. did he have any idea how cyanide found its way into the bloodstream of his late wife >> coming up -sb a d's theory of how and why his wife died. hy would she do this to herself? >> what was he suggesting? and did he know solithing that poce didn't?
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five days after doctors turned off the machines on dr. autumn klein, pittsburgh police detectives made their way where she made a home with her daughter and husband, medical researcher robert ferrante
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veteran detective jim mcgee took the lead ferrante greeted him and his partner.lk >> we start tag to him and what he can tell us about what happened to his wife at that point. >> reporter: ferrante told the detectives how his wife had arrived home that night a little fore midnight. >> and how she came through the door and just collapsed on the floor. >> oh, god >> reporter: he then recounted what he told 911 >> i think my wife is having a stroke h >> reporter:thought his wife had suffered a stroke. the detectives informed him he was wrong about that >> we ask him if he knew that wi hife died of cyanide poisoning. >> reporter: so what did he sayo >> he kindf gasped and said, why would she do this to herself? >> reporter: why would she do that to herself? >> that's correct. >> reporter: to the cops the man looked visibly shaken. it seemed he was suggesting his wife had committed suicide ferrante then told the story
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aboug autumn trying and failin to get pregnant. he said she'd recently been taking the supplement calleds creatine in the hopeit would help with fertility. veteran detective harry lutton understood the late wife's emotional agony. >> she's trying to have another and that's a lot of st on a woman when they're trying to anhave children and they c't have children. n'>> reporter: could autum distressed state of mind have led to suicide detectives had to consider that as a theory. but cyanide? that's an unusual way to kill yourself and it's a hard-to-get poison. how could autumn have gotten her hands on it? >> well, we lo -ed into the labs thyou know, where she worked she didn't work in a lab she worked with patients >> reporter: she was a clinic doctor, right? >> yes. >> reporter: she was working hands on >> yes >> reporter: but there were others labs at the medical complex, labs stocked with poisons, including cyanide maybe autumn wandered into one of those detectives pulled hospital security cam footage from that last day, and here's what they assaw. that's autumn he's getting ready to leave work. disappears for roughlyscalators, minutes before coming back down
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and heading home question in those missing minutes from the camera's eye had she foundhe way into a lab with toxins and maybe this is where shgoes to get her hands on cyanide to, inexplicably, kill herself >> that's correct. >> reporter: yet there was a problewith that scenario, a big one. the investigators learned that to get into any of those labs autumn would have needed a special access card. is there any sign that she had a card swipe that put her in an he area w another researcher ordy >> no.ight have had cyanide? t there's no card swipes athe timehat she left work. >> reporter: the more they dug, the less detectives believed this unexpected death was a suicide. true, autumn was frustrated by her infertility, but disappointment was all it was, thinks her cousin, sharon. suicide was never on her radar >> that was not autumn that was just not autumn >> reporter: family, friends and colleagues agreed. autumn was a womanith plans to live, not die. she had a daughter she adored
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and was scheduling vacations and new research projects just before her death so if she didn't take it, and your theory is that she hasn't killed herself, the only place to go is homicide. >> that's rrect. >> reporter: who would want to murder autumn klein?se the spous almost always a suspect till they're not but the husband here, bob rrante, was a renowned medical researcher he didn't seem to fit the bill professional guy >> yes >> reporter: well regarded there don't seem to be any money issues in the household. >> reporter: in fact, marriage of ferrante and klein appeared to outsiders to be a good one still, detectives had to consider the husband's line ofar he worked routinely with toxins in his lab, but not with cyanide. more than a week after they first interviewed the husband, detectives begso talking to his laciates >> the people that we talked to said that there was no research
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with cyanide >> reporter: yet detectives were just getting started with their investigation. they combed through labs and laptops, interviewed friends and colleagues, re-analyzed hospital footage. >> i think once we got all that together and got all the pieces wof that puzzle together,e had our picture. >> rorter: a picture, he sai that revealed only one person who had the motive and the means to kill autumn kleinhu her sband, bob ferrante.vi though the ence was largely circumstantial, three months after autumn's death the cops were ready to make an arrest at the time bob ferrante was visiting his sister in florida pittsburgh pd detective lutton headed south to make the arrest. but when he got there, the sister said ferrante wasatone. >> she said the got a phone call from an attorney and he got in a car and said, i've got to >> reporter: did you t that dr. ferrante was doing a runner on you he was trying to get away? y >> yes. i mean, we were told that he was
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going to his attorney. but he's running from us he knew we were coming >> reporter: on your books, he's a fugitive >> yes >> reporter: but not for long., as it turned outferrante was on hto way back to pittsburgh turn himself in, says his s attorney, when he wapulled over by state police in west virginia and later handed over to pittsburgh authorities. police had their man now they and the commonwealth of pennsylvania h to prove to 12 men and women that he was the right on c they heard a cleane? >> they heard a very clean case. >> reporter: to jeffrey a. manning, the judgeerho would preside ov it all, the case against bob ferrante, far from a sure thing, could well leave jurors scratching their heads. >> and i'm not one for predicting verdicts, but i would not have predictedr:ne here. >> reporte it could have gone either way and you wouldn't have been surprised >> that would be correct >> coming up - was jealousy a possible motive for murder what had bob ferrante discover i about his wife f this were somebody that she was remotely interested in, she would have told me
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dr. autumn klein and robert ferrante had all the trappings of success and happiness. a nice three-story home a short drive from the heart of the city prestigious jobs at the university of pittsburgh and its medical center at one time it all seemed viable did you think they were a good couple >> yeah. yeah, i did. >> reporter: and then it all went so wrong.
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autumn, dead from apparent cyanide poisoning. her husband no l a year and a halfater, standing trial for her murder even to the presiding judge with years on the bench this was a first. >> you had a very intelligent man who's accused of poisoning his wife ueyou have experts who arg with one another. >> reporter: and tip-top good lawyering. very good lawyering very good experts. >> reporter: and it would be up to prosecutor lisa pellegrini to explain what drove an otherwise mild-mannered scientist to kill the wife he supposedly loved, and in such a cruel manner she opened by describing a man infuriated, one losing control of his more successful wife who had in turn grown tired of him thousen jennings in the >> reporter: reporter alan jennings was in the courtroom. >> prosecutors say he was obsessed, jealous. his marria, he realized he was going to be dumped by his wife asserted that the marr wasr in freefall at the time of her death. autumn believed her husband had emotionally checked out, especially when it came to the issue of having another child. she more or less told her cousin, sharon, he was a cold fish >> my husband's a psychologist, she saidneed you to ask him if there's such a gene as for compassion because if there is, then bob i>
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lacking it. eporter: wow that just describes acres of sadness, doesn't it? >> yeah. yeah >> reporter: the prosecutor showed an e-mail autumn had sent her husband in the months before her death. she wrote, i realize now i havth been alone i entire emotional journey. i can't even speak to you without getting any. did she ever say, sharon, i'm going leave him this isn't working >> yes >> reporter: said she said that to you >> she did to me yes. >> reporter: and he was positively rattled to the core,d the prosecutor, when he found out autumn was texting and e-heiling a male colleague s spent time with at a conference in san francisco bob ferrante, said the prosecutor, suspected his wife was having an affair autumn's cousin was certain that wasn't true. >> if this were somebody that she was remotely interested in, she would have told me >> reporter: so you don't thinkt anhing physical was happening certainly? >> no. no >> reporter: but as the prosecutors told it, the defendant believed otherwise rather than shoring up a crumbling marriage, e
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embittered scientist -- his wife the new rising sta-- came up with a cold-blooded soluon he poisoned her. >> the motivation. just jealousy. that if he couldn't have her, no one was going to have her. >> reporter: ferrante,he prosecutor said, thought he could get rid of his wife quickly by slipping her cyanide. when she didn't die immediately, he had to come up with a plan b to mislead the paramedics and doctors. the prosecutor played that >> i think my wife is ng a stroke >> the prosecution wasng establishi dr. ferrante's attempts to lead everybody that he encountered, starting with the 911 operator and he said, well, i think she had a stroke >> reporter: so steering it. >> steering it >> reporter: then when aumn finally died, according to the prosecutor, ferrante said something that he thought would keep the cause of death secret t loistified that her son-in-law said flatly he did not want an autopsy. >> i said, i'm her mother, and i want an autopsy. >> reporter: because you wanted to know the cause of death
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>> i said, i can't believe you don't want to know what happened to her and his response was that people do that. they do autopsies, and then thew people don'tt to know the results of it.s so that wathat ti>> reporter: the prosecu had described a man who'd lost control of his wife, killed her, and then tried desperately to cover it up. fense attorneys bill difenderfer and wendy williams you get this picture of a jealous guy whose career is being eclipsed by his wife thinks she's got a lover and bang, she's dead >> well, that's the spin that the commonwealth put on thvi thing. and obsly, we think the reality is that's not the case >> reporter: they said the prosecutor's alleged motive here made for great modrama, but it was miles away from the truth. >> reporter: bob was very successful huntington's disease, a.l.s., on the verge of some big breakthroughs. >> reporter: bob ferrante, they countered, was a brilliant researcher and a loving man devoted to helping his wife, not and to sell that image, they
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ooflabbergasted the courtrm by calling the defendant himself to the stand. >> so in this case the defendant made that choice i've often said that it's risky at bes the minute the defendant takes the stand, we now have the government's proof versus the defendant's credibility. >> reporter: a gamble, hisns defeteam said, ferrante was willing to make. he wanted jurors to see him for the man he was, one who loved his bright, complicated wife >> he wanted to help the jury understand what was going on in their marriage and, you know, ts l them how badly hife wanted to have a child. >> reporter: yes, he conceded, he had been a jealous husband for a brief moment but then he and autumn had kissed and made up in the weeks before her death >> they go on a trip to erto rico with their daughter as the neighbors describe, when they come back, they're glowing, they're in love, they're holding hands. those actions speak a thousand words.
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>> reporter: in the moments he said he honestly thoug she was having a stroke. when she died, he wanted simply to honor her wishes and donate her organs and that's why he did not want an autopsy >> he was aware that if an autopsy is done, a full autopsy is done, it will destroy the ability to donate the organs, which was his wife's request >> reporter: a loving and loyal husband to the end, according to the defense.ma not a d scientist treating his wife like a lab rat, killing her with cyanide speaking of which, they said, the prosecution's claim of how autu died was all wrong. >> there is not evidence that my client had anything to do with her death, let alone han death caused by cye. >> reporter: an age-old poison. its connection to a medical researcher and his doctor wife were about to be analyzed beneath a very different kind
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microscope -- the unforgiving eye of the law >> coming up - would someone as smart as robert ferrante really use something as oious and easy to trace as cyanide >> that's like me buying a shotgun, telling everybody, hey, i just bought a shotgun, and two hours later my wife is deceased from a shotgun shot. >> couldn't be that stupid >> he would the dumbest guy in the universe ♪ i want it that way... i can't believe it. that karl brought his karaoke machine? ♪ ain't nothing but a heartache... ♪ no, i can'lieve how easy it was to save hundreds of dollars on my car insurance with geico. ♪ i never wanna hear you say... ♪ no, kevin... no, kevin! believe ve! geico could sa you fifteen percent or more on car insurance. try dove go fresh... something fresh? geico could sa you fifteen percent with the classic, crisp scent of cucumber & green tea... ... 48 hour protection... ...and signature freshness. now available in new deodorant wipes. keep it fresh!
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milk, fresh cream and only sustainably farmed vanilla. it's made with fresh cream, sugar and milk. breyers the good vanilla. we proudly partner with american farmers for grade a milk and cream. mmm!
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the commonwealth of pennsylvania had tried to paintt robe ferrante as a jealous husband driven by rage to poison his wife how did he do it prosecutors believed hslipped the cyanide inside a drink and gave it to her shortly after she came home that night a theory, said judge manning, that was tough to prove. >> no one stood there with their two eyes and said, i saw him put the cyanide in the drink and i givet to her no one said that >> reporter: that is a weak point in the prosecution's argument
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>> of course it is >> reporter: they wish they had it buthey didn't >> of course it is but keep in mind, circumstantial evidence, even though most people don't believe, what it really is is very powerful >> reporter: prosecutor lisa pellegrini told the court that ferrante used his wife's vulnerability, namely, her infertility, to trick her into taking cyanide that night. earlier in the day, autumn had sent him this text tovulate tomorrow heted back perfect timing creatine smiley face. creatine >> creatine. >> reporter: this is the solution >> this is it. >> reporter: ferrante, the prosecutor alleged, fed convinced his wihat creatine could help her get pregnant. he whipped up a poison drink, knowasg she'd take it as soon she came home. the poisoned drink theory was corroborated by something told later to a doctor friend of ferranteld >> dr. ferrante to him, he said, i don't know she came home. i gave her a creatine drink. she drank it and sheassed out on the floor >> reporter: and no one may have been the wiser for it, if it hadn't been for a lab test that found a sky-high amount of cyanide in autumn's blood. added, were also positive for or the poison associate medical examinervi
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dr. todd luckasec underscored that for the jury. whataused this woman's death was? >> cyanide poisoning period >> reporter: no doubt? >> no doubt. >> reporter: nor was there any doubt, said the prosecutor, as to who poisoned autumn police discovered the in an ant's laptop hidde office safe. and inside it a wealth of information that told them bob ferrante had indeed been a very busy researcher in the months before his wife's death. >> dr. ferrante was googling search concerning cyanide, where to purchase it, how to purchase it, the effects on people >> reporter: and he didn't stop there. the prosecutor said bob ferrante then made an interesting request to his lab associas, something later relayed to detectives. >> he goes to the purchasing person in the laborato, and he tells this person that he wants to order a bottle of cyanide >> reporter: has he ever done that before, detective >> never >> reporter: betteyet, the detectives explained, the doctor asked for the cyanide to be delivered overnight. and when is all this in relation to autumn's slumping to the
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floor in her home? >> two days prior. >> reporter: two days prior? >> yes >> reporter: ferrante, he said, had even left his fingerprint on the container, which interestingly to them had 8.3 grams of, yanide missing whatke a heaping teaspoon full maybe of cyanide? >> i think about a teaspoon full would be about eight grams >> reporter: is that a lethal amount of cyanide? >> yes >> reporter: prosecutor lisa pellegrini said the defendant thought he was so smart, fooling his wife and then everyone elsea by using a poison hessumed was untraceable.sh s standing and looking at the jury, points to ferrante, th man right there was one blood test away from the perfect murder >> reporter: murder, responded the defense? what murder? robert ferrante, it said, did not commit a crime because there was no crime >> i said as forcefully as i could, we don't believe and we will never believe that autumnan klein died from e.
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>> reporter: the defense wasg attacke cornerstone of the commonwealth's case. that blood test with its lethal reading of cyanide could never be trusted, it said. >> there's no way that the result is reliable >> reporter: throw yt out? >>es >> reporter: because, he said, the lab initially screwed it up with that 3.35 calculation it only caught its error months later, correcting the level to 2.2, a still lethal amount of cyanide in autumn's blood. a it certainly raises its real issue of its credibility. >> reporter: and gives the defense something to work with >> and absolutely gave the defense a lot to work with >> reporter: far more reliable, argued ferrante's attorneys, wat another test done in weeks after autumn's death it too found cyanide in her mud but at very low levels, nowhere near lethal. >> and in this case, that alone, asyril wecht eloquently articulated, was more than reasonable doubt for this jury to acquit my client. >> the reports are highly conflicting. >> reporter: dr. cyril wecht the defense had introducednto the legal mix a renowned
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pittsburgh and internationally recognized pathologi of many years. dr. wecht had weighed in on cases from the jfk assassination to the deaths of elvis presley and jonbenet ramsey. he told the court the conflicting tests demanded a tie-breaker. >> what you do is you've got to send it in again for laboratory testing, preferably to a thirded highly respect toxicology lab. that was not done. >> reporter: more compelling, he said, was evidence of scarring aroundutumn's heart, which could have triggered an electrical malfunction, stopping the organ cold only on-e-spot cpr could have saved her.e >> and in thabsence of somebody hitting you in the chest, somebody knowing what they're doing with training in cardio pulmonary resuscitation, you probably will die.
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>> reporter: in other words, the defense sa, autumn could have died of natural causes they added that crimsescene techs procesd the house and never did find so much as a trace of the poison. and their client's cyanide google searches? done for research purposes, not murdern i mean, here he isnuary asking questions of google about the nature of cyanide. th looks very bad. >> in april he's asking about cyanide, potassium cyanide, neuroscience research project. >> reporter: the defendantr furtheplained his actions from the stand he ordered the poison for work and even took it out of the box when it arrived.in that's why his frprint was t onhe container besides, his lawyer added, a man as smart as bob ferrante wouldha never use a weapon tt could so easily be traced back to him >> that's like me buying a shotgun, telling everybody, hey, i just bought a shotgun, and two hours later my wife is deceaseds fromtgun shot. >> reporter: couldn't be that stupid >> he would the dumbest guy in the universe >> reporter: in closing, the defense begged the jurors to use their common sense, which they later said is exactly what they did. their common sense and the science presented told them
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autumn kle had died of cyanide poisoning because the defendant they found him guilty of first-degree murder. >> crushing. crushing especially in this case. absolutely crushing. >> yep good description te reporter: robert ferranas since been sentenced to life in prison he is challenging his convicti in court for now, though, autumn's family feels they've gotten justice their anger towards her husband has been overshadowed by all the what ifs >> not only do i grieve autumn and the loss that she is to me and to us as a family and to our community and our friends, but alkn her patients. you ow, my heart breaks for her patients >> reporter: it was all dr. autumn klein h h ever wanted to do,elp others now that chance is gone, swept away way too soon. >> that's all for now.
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i'm lester holt. thanks for joining us. tens of thousands lose power, at least half a dozen deaths are reported fromhe sweltering temperatures. but meteorologist janessa webb says relief is on the way. >> a supersonic moment caught on camera a venezuelan fighter jetta gressel i havely shadowing a n u.s.avy plane over the caribbean, putng a creat risk >> a deadly home explosion caught on doorbell camera, a utility worker is kied, and hers are injured >> the wisconsin town that was promised thousands of jobs when president trump made a deal to bring a faory there. now some residents are calling it a scam. >> developing overnight, a construction crane collapses on two new jersey homes, one including eight female residents. late details ahead

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