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Judge won't bar confession in exterminator's murder trial

PHILADELPHIA -- A jury has heard opening statements in the murder trial of an exterminator accused of strangling a pediatrician to death in her Philadelphia home, reports CBS Philadelphia.

Before the jury was seated, Judge Sandy Byrd denied a defense motion Wednesday to suppress statements that the defendant, 37-year-old Jason Smith, gave to police -- including a so-called "blurt out" to police stating that victim Melissa Ketunuti "was alive when I left her home."

The defense also hoped to bar an alleged confession to detectives.

Melissa Ketunuti (credit: CBS Philadelphia/

Ketunuti, 35, was strangled and her body then set on fire in the basement of her home, where Smith had been dispatched by an exterminating company.

Defense attorney Michael Farrell also sought to have 13 crime scene photos barred from the jury's view, most of which depict the victim. Assistant DA Jennifer Selber told the judge that many photos needed to be shown to the jury to support the many charges beyond murder, such as arson and abuse of corpse.

The judge ruled that five of the disputed photos were "relevant and necessary."

After dealing with the pretrial motions, the jury filed in, Smith pleaded not guilty to all charges, and opening statements began.