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Police Identify Body Of Burned CHOP Doctor Found Inside Center City Home

By Jim Melwert, Jenn Bernstein

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia police have released the name of the woman whose burned body was found in the basement of her Center City row home Monday afternoon. (See Related Story).

Investigators said the cause of death was likely strangulation: a rope had been found around her neck.

And they say 35-year-old Melissa Ketunuti's partially nude body was on fire, found by her dog walker, in the basement of her row home in the 1700 block of Naudain Street.

Melissa Ketunuti
Melissa Ketunuti (credit:

Chief Inspector Scott Small explained early Tuesday morning, "Fire department puts out the fire and pronounces her dead … The body was still smoldering, the wrists and ankles are tied behind the back, the body was face down."

Small said there was no forced entry into the home.

During a news conference Tuesday morning, homicide division Captain James Clark added that the woman's body was found clad only in a shirt, although he did not believe she had been sexually assaulted.

Clark said investigators were continuing to talk with neighbors and analyze surveillance tapes from the neighborhood. He said the doctor had a boyfriend, but he is not a suspect at this time.

The Philadelphia Police Department said the standard reward of $20,000 for information leading to a conviction in a homicide case was in effect.

Ketunuti worked as a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The hospital issued a statement late this morning, saying in part, "The entire community of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of Dr. Melissa Ketunuti, a second-year infectious-diseases fellow and researcher at CHOP. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, colleagues, and friends at this difficult time."

The CHOP statement quotes Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the hospitals' division of infectious diseases, as saying that Ketunuti was "admired, respected and loved by those with whom she worked here at CHOP."

Police are asking anyone who may have seen anything unusual in the neighborhood around 12:30 Monday afternoon to get in touch with police.

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