A University of Pittsburgh medical researcher who allegedly poisoned his neurologist wife by lacing an energy drink with cyanide pleaded not guilty Tuesday to criminal homicide.
Dr. Robert Ferrante, 64, was arraigned in Pittsburgh a day after waiving extradition from West Virginia, where he was arrested last week.
Defense attorney William Difenderfer has said Ferrante “adamantly” denies involvement in the April 20 death of his wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, three days after she suddenly fell ill.
But after the arraignment, Difenderfer refused comment on any of the allegations, including that Ferrante bought the poison with a university credit card two days before his wife fell ill.
Ex-Pittsburgh school officer guilty of molesting four boys
PITTSBURGH – A former Pittsburgh Public Schools police officer has been convicted of molesting four boys in the late 1990s, when he pulled them out of class and forced them to perform sex acts in a middle school broom closet.
The weeklong trial of Robert Lellock, 44, of Pittsburgh, ended Monday when a jury took just three hours to convict him of 13 charges including indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children and corruption of minors.
Lellock didn’t comment as he was taken to jail to await his Oct. 8 sentencing, when he’s expected to get several years behind bars.
Hearing delayed for man accused of recording burning boy
SAXONBURG – A western Pennsylvania man accused of throwing nail polish on his girlfriend’s 7-year-old son then recording him after he was set on fire had a preliminary hearing delayed while prosecutors interview another possible witness.
Defense attorney Gerald Cassady said he may request a bail reduction for 36-year-old Edward Myers. The Saxonburg man declined comment at his appearance Tuesday before a district judge about 30 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Police said Myers threw nail polish on the boy in the May 25 incident then did nothing to help him after he was set on fire, either by Myers himself or other boys at the home.
Police said the boy suffered third-degree burns on his face and chest.
Edinboro University mulling music cuts to trim deficit
EDINBORO – A state-owned university in northwestern Pennsylvania is reportedly considering cutting its music program to help reduce a projected $5.5 million deficit for the coming academic year.
Edinboro University spokesman Jeffrey Hileman said such discussions are “very preliminary. The university is not close to any decision.”
The Erie Times-News reported the proposal Tuesday after an email from the department’s chairperson surfaced on a faculty member’s Facebook page.
The email said the department could be phased out to cut costs and because of declining enrollment.
Hileman said the school, which has more than 7,400 students, has 75 in its music program.
But he said the school reviews each department annually and that decisions on whether and where to make cuts are based on enrollment, costs and impact on campus life.
Teen rescued after being trapped for 18 hours following car crash
LANCASTER – A south-central Pennsylvania man is being lauded as a hero for helping rescue a teenager trapped for 18 hours in her overturned sport utility vehicle.
Authorities in Lancaster County said 49-year-old Brad Shearer helped save the life of 18-year-old Brooke Spence, whose SUV flipped over late Saturday in West Hempfield Township.
Police said the injured Spence was trapped in the SUV in underbrush by a creek until Shearer noticed the vehicle while getting ready to grill on his deck Sunday evening.
The Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era reported that he saw something glinting in the underbrush and went to check it out.
He found Spence calm and conscious, and had his wife call 911. Spence had lost her cellphone in the accident and was unable to call for help.
She was in serious condition at a hospital Monday. Police said her parents had been away on vacation.
Police arrest man in case of clerk set on fire
READING – A man accused of setting a sandwich shop clerk on fire in Reading in April has surrendered, but he said police have the wrong man.
The Reading Eagle reported 29-year-old Thomas Lopez Jr. is being held on $500,000 bail after surrendering Monday to face charges of attempted murder and other counts.
Police allege Lopez entered the store April 30, threw gasoline on 34-year-old Joel Fontanez-Pagan and set him on fire because of a dispute over a woman.
Fontanez-Pagan had to be placed in a medically induced coma, but came out of it June 18. Police said he identified Lopez as his attacker from a photo.
Defense attorney James M. Polyak said Lopez said he didn’t do it and wanted to tell police they had the wrong man.
Man charged with leaving child outside casino
PITTSBURGH – Police are charging a man with endangering the welfare of his 2-year-old daughter, who was allegedly left unattended in a car outside Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino before she was found by casino security.
Casino officials said 35-year-old Forme Balebako will be banned from the facility for life.
Online court records don’t list an attorney for the Swissvale man, who told police he planned to take his child for a walk along the river before he went into the casino to use a restroom.
While inside, Balebako told police he stopped to play a slot machine.
Casino officials notified police after finding the child unattended in the car for 22 minutes on Monday morning. Police said the car was locked and cool, and the child was found in good health.