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Melissa Ketunuti Murder: Jason Smith, exterminator, admits to strangling Phila. pediatrician after argument, report says

Melissa Ketunuti (credit: ketunuti.blogspot.com) CBS Philadelphia/ketunuti.blogspot.com

Jason Smith
CBS Philly

(CBS) -- Police said an exterminator admitted to strangling a pediatrician at her home in downtown Philadelphia after the two got into a verbal argument, CBS Philly reports.

PICTURES: Phila. doctor found dead, bound and burned

Jason Smith, 36, was charged with murder Thursday morning after being taken into police custody the night before for questioning in 35-year-old Melissa Ketunuti's death, the station reports.

Ketunuti was a second-year infectious diseases fellow and researcher at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Firefighters arrived at her home Monday afternoon and found her body on fire in the basement, with her ankles and wrists bound and a rope around her neck.

Smith was charged with murder, abuse of corpse, arson and risking a catastrophe after allegedly telling investigators he committed the crime because he felt like Ketunuti was "disrespecting" him, according to CBS Philly.

Investigators said Smith arrived for service at Ketunuti's home for a rodent problem, according to the station. Police said the two had a verbal argument in the basement of the home before Smith struck the victim and she fell to the ground. Smith then allegedly strangled Ketunuti with rope before tying her wrists and ankles and setting her body on fire.

Homicide division Capt. James Clark said Smith was spotted on surveillance video after leaving the house and getting into his truck. His pickup truck was later confiscated as part of the investigation.

Clark said Smith lived with his girlfriend in their Levittown, Pa. home and detectives executed a search warrant at the home on Wednesday night.

Complete coverage of the Melissa Ketunuti case on Crimesider

  • Crimesider Staff

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