Dr. Melissa Ketunuti, 35, was found in her Philadelphia rowhouse strangled to death and body set ablaze on Monday after returning home from errands to meet with an exterminator to get rid of a rodent problem.Surveillance footage obtained on Monday led to the arrest of Jason Smith, the 36-year-old Pennsylvania exterminator charged with the pediatrician’s murder and abuse of her corpse. Members of a homicide task force tracked down Smith through the use of photo-imaging technology, matching the face in the video to his Bucks County driver’s license.
Police found the suspect Wednesday night at his home watching American Idol with his girlfriend and her daughter when they burst through the front door. The family dog, a boxer named Tyson, charged at the police who shot and killed it.
Smith told detectives that he indeed visited Ketunuti’s home on Monday after she scheduled an appointment through Dave Bilyk Exterminators, a pest control-company that he sub-contracted with. He said he heard about Ketunuti’s murder, but that he did not contact police about his visit for fear that they would falsely suspect him of the crime.
Smith confessed to the murder a few hours later.
He said he “snapped” after getting into an argument with the pediatrician claiming that Ketunuti said somethign that “belittled” him.
“During the course of him servicing her, they got into some type of argument. It went terribly wrong. At that point, he struck her while she was in the basement, knocked her down, strangled her to death and then ultimately set her body on fire,” Capt. James Clark said.
Smith is currently being held without bail and a preliminary hearing has been set for February 13.
Dr. Melissa Ketunuti was a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She graduated from Stanford Medical School and was working on her master’s in clinical epidemiology. Ketunuti’s neighbors described her as pleasant, caring, warm and full of life. Yet another true angel on Earth has fallen at the hands of a sick human being.