A Philadelphia exterminator was arrested and charged in the strangling and burning murder of a young pediatrician. Melissa Ketunuti, 35, was found strangled and on fire in her row house in Philadelphia earlier this week.
Exterminator Jason Smith had been contracted out and sent to Ketunuti’s home on a service call, reports say. The two allegedly got into “some sort of argument” in the basement of the pediatrician’s home, and Smith attacked her. Capt. James Clark of the Philadelphia police department said this morning:
“At her home they got into an argument. It went terribly wrong. He struck her, and knocked her to the ground. Immediately he jumped on top of her, started strangling her. She passed out, and then he set her body on fire.”
There was no evidence that she was sexually assaulted. Clark asserts that Smith burned the body to “hide” DNA evidence. At some point, she was bound. The doctor was found with her hands and feet tied behind her back.
Before the murder, Smith’s record consisted only of “minor traffic offenses,” according to police.
Police were notified of the crime on Monday afternoon when Ketunuti’s dog-walker alerted police to a house fire. Once inside, they found a bound and burning Ketunuti.
She was a doctor at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and had lived alone in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood of the city for about three years.
Detectives reportedly scoured the neighborhood for video surveillance from nearby stores and businesses hoping to find the killer. Through a video, they identified Smith getting out of a vehicle and following Ketunuti to her home. The man then left her home about an hour later and was seen on the video circling the home.
Detective drove to Smith’s home, where he lives with his girlfriend and her child, on Wednesday night. At the police station, Smith allegedly made statements that led police to believe he committed the murder.
Smith will face charges of murder, arson, and abuse of a corpse.
Ketunuti’s hospital issued a statement Tuesday that she was “a warm, caring, earnest, bright young woman with her whole future ahead of her,” adding that she will be deeply missed.
[Image via Shutterstock]