Levittown Man Charged with Murder of Doctor
Police say that Jason Smith, 36, of Levittown, has been charged with the murder of Philadelphia pediatrician Melissa Ketunuti.
Thursday, 11:13 a.m.:
During a press conference, Philadelphia Police Captain James Clark, Commanding Officer of Homicide Unit, stated that Jason Smith has been charged with the murder of pediatrician Melissa Ketunuti in addition to an arson and related charges.
Detectives used "every bit" of surveillance footage in the area of the victim's home to develop Smith as a suspect. At 10 p.m. Wednesday night, Philadelphia Police, U.S. Marshals and Bristol Police went to Smith's house in Bristol Township and transported him back to the Philadelphia Police homicide unit for questioning.
Clark stated that Smith gave detectives a statement, which along with evidence collected, were sufficient enough for murder charges.
Ketunuti needed an exterminator for a rodent problem in her home and Smith was subcontracted by a company that is not being named. While Smith was in Ketunuti's basement, Clark said there was some type of argument between them. This argument escalated to Smith striking Ketunuti, knocking her to the ground. He immediately jumped on top of her and strangled her to death with a rope and ultimately set her body on fire to cover up the murder.
Clark stated that Smith did not go to Ketunuti's home with the intention of killing her, he originally went there to service her as an exterminator.
In addition, Clark said that Smith has "nothing major" on his record, just minor traffic offenses until now.
Clark said that "it's very, very sad" that Ketunuti died in such a tragic manner and that he is glad that the Philadelphia Police have been able to give her family some sort of closure in the form of Smith's arrest.
Smith lives on Crescent Lane in Levittown with his girlfriend and her children.
Thursday, 10:30 a.m.:
Contracted exterminator Jason T. Smith, 36 of Levittown, has been charged with the murder of Ketunuti, NBC10 reported. Sources told NBC10 that Smith confessed to the crime after being taken into questioning by Philadelphia Police.
Thursday, 8:54 a.m.:
Murder charges have been lodged against Levittown resident Jason Smith, 36, in relation to the death of 35-year-old pediatrician Melissa Ketunuti, according to Fox 29.
Officials at the city district attorney's office were not able to comment to Patch on what exact charges were filed. The Philadelphia Police Department will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. to provide updated information on this case.
Thursday, 2:38 a.m.:
Authorities from Bristol Township and Philadelphia descended upon a two-story home on Crescent Lane in Levittown Wednesday night to search the house of a man who police tell various media outlets is a "person of interest" in the Center City murder of a pediatrician.
The man was questioned late Wednesday in connection with the death of 35-year-old Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia pediatrician Melissa Ketunuti. The victim was discovered bound and on fire at around 12:30 p.m. Monday in the basement of her home in the 1700 block of Naudain Street.
Police sources said the man in custody is in his late 30s. A report from 6abc.com indicates he works as a pest exterminator. Neighbors told Philly.com he lives in a Crabtree section home with his girlfriend and 2 children.
City police transported the man to department headquarters and questioned him as crime scene investigators combed through the Crescent Lane property where he lived starting after 8 p.m. Inquirer crime reporter Mike Newall tweeted that police took clothing from the house and searched the yard and trash.
Video aired on 6abc TV showed police focusing their attention on the man's light-colored Ford pickup truck, which the station said the man used for work. A police official later told Patch the truck was towed from outside the house by a city tow crew.
Investigators told 6abc.com the truck contains evidence they consider crutial to the murder probe. Sources also told 6abc the vehicle was spotted near the victim’s home in surveillance video shot shortly before Ketunuti’s burning body was discovered by a dog walker.
An early morning post from the Inquirer stated sources told the paper the Levittown man’s girlfriend had spoken with police.
Several Levittown residents told Patch they were drawn to the skies as a police helicopter hovered over the house where the search warrant was executed.
According to PhillyBurbs.com, Bristol Township police fired shots at the scene after a dog was let out of the house and charged at officers. No word on whether the dog was struck by gunfire.
Philadelphia police revealed to the press on Wednesday afternoon that the 35-year-old doctor’s hands and feet were bound and a rope put around her neck before she was set ablaze. They said strangulation was the suspected cause of death.
City homicide unit Captain James Clark told reporters the young doctor is not believed to have been sexually assaulted by her attacker, CBS3.com said.
Several groups announced just hours before the Levittown man's questioning that the reward for information leading to a conviction in the murder was $35,000.
Check back with Patch for updates on this developing story.