NBC’s ‘Dateline: Lethal Weapon’ chronicles how Dr. Robert Ferrante plotted to kill his wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, 41, inside their Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home in April 2013. He hoped to get away with ‘the perfect crime,’ but the victim’s family’s relentless demands for justice and a diligent police force arrested him within a couple of months of the heinous murder. So, what is the story of Robert, and where is he now? Let’s find out.
Who is Dr. Robert Ferrante?
Robert “Bob” Joseph Ferrante was born and raised in Quincy, Massachusetts, in the late 1940s. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut in 1970 and his master’s in neuroscience in 1971. Focusing his career on neuropathology, Bob worked as a researcher for several years under a famous neurologist studying rats and monkeys at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center for Mental Retardation in Waltham, Massachusetts. He married Diane McLaughlin in Boston in August 1971.
Bob joined Massachusetts General Hospital as a clinical laboratory supervisor in the early 1980s and began his research on Huntington’s disease, which became one of his areas of specialization. He had a daughter, Kimberly, in 1980 and a son, Michael, in 1983. Bob lived with his family and raised his children in his white, two-story, wood-frame home in Canton, Massachusetts. After being married for 17 years, Bob and Diane filed for divorce in Norfolk County in 1988.
Though they agreed to joint custody of the children, she stopped being part of their lives after the divorce. Bob’s father, James V. Ferrante, moved into the family’s home and helped his son raise Michael and Kimberly. According to Reverend F. Washington Jarvis — the headmaster at Roxbury Latin School in Boston, where Michael attended — Bob was “the most exemplary father any boy ever had.” The Reverend added, “Though he was busy as a researcher, he never missed a game. He was always there for every event. People loved him.”
According to reports, Bob served in the role of both parents as he coached Michael’s sports teams — soccer, basketball, football, and baseball — and kept the household together with Friday night laundry and TV nights. He knew the other parents at school and participated in group service projects. He met Dr. Autumn Marie Klein in 1995 during her doctoral program while working in the Bedford Veterans Administration Medical Center’s lab. They began working together at her supervisor’s suggestion and soon struck up a close friendship.
Even though Bob was 23 years older than Autumn, she was smitten with him, and her colleague, Dr. Karen Rouse, recalled, “With Bob, it was a significantly different feel than anybody she had dated earlier. Intellectually, he challenged her. She admired the way he thought.” After dating for a few years, the couple married at the historic Old North Church in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 18, 2001. After the marriage, Bob encouraged Autumn in her work, knowing what it would take to become a successful physician and researcher.
Where is Dr. Robert Ferrante Now?
According to the episode, he didn’t object to her working an 80 or 100-hour week. He presented her with her diploma after she graduated from Boston University with her M.D. and Ph.D. two days after their marriage. They gave birth to their only child — a daughter — in January 2007. However, what seemed to be a perfect and idyllic marriage began to crumble a few years after their daughter’s birth. He was 58 when he had their child and was hesitant to be a dad because of his age.
Autumn’s cousin, Sharon King, also alleged he frequently called Autumn daily to check where she was as she drove home from work. She claimed he was trying to exert power and control over his wife and even called it domestic abuse. Sharon contended she and her husband, Jeff, never felt entirely at ease with him whenever they visited Bob and Autumn in Boston. They described Bob as always wanting to be in control, and Jeff, a clinical psychologist, defined him as arrogant with a narcissistic personality and obsessive tendencies.
Bob signed a contract to take his lab, valued at $3 million, along with nine grants in his name, to the University of Pittsburgh on January 25, 2011. Reports claimed Bob told one of his neighbors about his wife pressuring him to have a second child and how he was against it around a week before they moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in May 2011. By late 2012, Autumn had been contemplating leaving him due to his disinterest in having another child and his allegations of her affair with a male colleague.
After Autumn died of a mysterious “illness” on April 20, 2013, her family was surprised that Bob refused to have her autopsied. Upon her family’s insistence, an Allegheny County associate medical examiner performed the post-mortem and found lethal doses of cyanide in her blood. The authorities arrested Bob on first-degree murder charges in July 2013. According to the prosecution, he fed his wife the poison while pretending to offer a nutritional supplementary drink to help in her fertility battle.
Court documents show Bob’s ordered the toxin on July 15 — two days before Autumn collapsed — and his fingerprints were found on the cyanide container. A teaspoon ( approximately 8.3 grams) of cyanide was reportedly discovered missing. However, his defense claimed Bob bought the cyanide for his research. The court convicted him of first-degree murder in November 2014 and sentenced him to life without parole.
The former researcher asked for a new trial citing an ineffective defense in July 2019. He filed several appeals and claimed, “I believe I was coerced, placed under great duress, and provided false promises into waiving my rights to a change of venire.” However, the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court dismissed his appeal in July 2022, and the 66-year-old continues to serve his sentence at the State Correctional Institution – Houtzdale.
Read More: Dr. Autumn Klein Murder: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?