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Exterminator charged with murder in death of Philadelphia doctor

January 24, 2013|By Michael Muskal
  • Homicide unit Capt. James Clark speaks during a news conference in Philadelphia.
Homicide unit Capt. James Clark speaks during a news conference in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / Associated…)

An exterminator has been arrested and charged with strangling a Philadelphia doctor who was found tied and burned in her home, police said on Thursday.

Dr. Melissa Ketunuti, 35, a second-year infectious disease fellow at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, was found Monday with her ankles and wrists bound and burned, police said.

Jason Smith, 36, was arrested Wednesday night at his home in Levittown, Pa., about 25 miles northeast of Philadelphia, homicide unit Capt. James Clark said at a televised news conference Thursday. Smith has been charged with murder, abuse of a corpse and other counts. There were no signs of sexual assault, he said.

Smith, an exterminator, had gone to Ketunuti's home on a service call where the two got into “some kind of argument,” Clark told reporters.

“At her home they got into an argument. It went terribly wrong. He struck her, and knocked her to the ground,” Clark said. “Immediately he jumped on top of her, started strangling her. She passed out, and then he set her body on fire.”

The body was burned to hide evidence, Clark said.

The police said they used surveillance videos from nearby stores to identify the suspect. Smith was spotted on video getting out of the vehicle and following Ketunuti to her home. The man left her home after an hour and was seen on video circling her home, Clark said.

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