Slain Doctor, Exterminator Argued Before Killing, Police Say - FOX 35 News Orlando

Slain Doctor, Exterminator Argued Before Killing, Police Say

Posted: Updated:
Police say Jason Smith, 36, OF Levittown, faces charges of murder, abuse of corpse, arson and risking catastrophe. (Courtesy: Philadelphia Police Dept.) Police say Jason Smith, 36, OF Levittown, faces charges of murder, abuse of corpse, arson and risking catastrophe. (Courtesy: Philadelphia Police Dept.)
PHILADELPHIA -

Murder charges have been filed against Jason Smith of Levittown, the suspect who police say killed a Center City doctor and then set her on fire.

Police formally announced the charges in the death of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Dr. Melissa Ketunuti during a news conference Thursday morning at headquarters.

Smith, a 36-year-old exterminator, faces counts of murder, abuse of corpse, arson and risking catastrophe, Homicide Unit Capt. James Clark said.

Ketunuti was found tied up, strangled and set on fire in her Center City home Monday.

At 10 p.m. last night, homicide detectives, U.S. Marshals and Bristol police went to a home in Levittown and transported Smith back to Philadelphia.

Later, he gave a statement admitting to the killing, police said.

According to investigators, Smith was sub-contracted out to service Ketunuti's home for a rodent problem. They had never met before.

"During the course of him servicing her, they got into some type of argument. It went terribly wrong. At that point, he struck her while she was in the basement, knocked her down, strangled her to death and then ultimately set her body on fire," Clark said.

Police said a rope from the basement was used to commit the strangulation and also to bound the doctor. Rope similar to that was found in the house.

Police did not go into what the argument was about. They say Smith went to another exterminating job after the alleged killing.

As for why Smith set the fire, Clark said, "The only thing I can surmise is that he was trying to hide evidence or whatever DNA we may or may not be able to get."

Regarding Smith's demeanor while giving his statement, Clark said detectives told him "at some point it was solemn, but at other points it was sort of like he was in a fog," adding that he seemed "somewhat" regretful.

Surveillance video played a large role in the arrest, police said, noting that detectives scoured the neighborhood and found footage of Smith following Ketunuti to her home.

The footage showed Smith following Ketunuti about 30 seconds behind her to his scheduled appointment. His truck can also be seen going down Naudain Street twice when he leaves.

A dog-walker found Ketunuti's burning body in the basement of her home less than an hour later.

"As I said earlier, detectives did an unbelievable job. They were relentless in their search," Clark said.

Residing with Smith at his Levittown home were his girlfriend, a child, and the girlfriend's step-father.

The 36-year-old exterminator has only minor traffic offenses on his record.

Clark called the killing "very tragic," but said police are happy to be able to give Ketunuti's family -- who are traveling from Thailand to Philadelphia -- some degree of closure with an arrest.

"I mean, you have a young physician that dedicated her life to helping people," he said. "And to die in this tragic manner, it's very, very sad."

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams issued a statement Thursday, extending thoughts and prayers to Ketunuti's family, friends and neighbors.

"I know their pain must be enormous," he said, "and I hope that today's arrest will help ease some of that pain."

Williams also commended the homicide detectives who worked tirelessly to solve this case.

"I think too often we forget to show our gratitude to these hard working men and women who are true heroes and whose main priority everyday is to bring justice to victims and their families," Williams said.

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • 75-Year Old Woman Hurt During Purse Snatching At South Jersey Shopping Center

    75-Year Old Woman Hurt During Purse Snatching At South Jersey Shopping Center

    Friday, August 22 2014 11:02 PM EDT2014-08-23 03:02:06 GMT
    "I'm shocked because I come here all the time and I've never had an issue ever and never felt unsafe," said Christina Polizzi of Cherry Hill. She is one of many shoppers atThe Promenade shopping Center on Route 73 in Eveshamhorrified to hear that a 75 year old woman was critically hurt from a man who snatched her purse. "That's horrible, that's horrible," said Polizzi.It happened Wednesday night around 8:30. Police say the woman was walkingwhen a man came up alongside her and violently grabbe...
    "I'm shocked because I come here all the time and I've never had an issue ever and never felt unsafe," said Christina Polizzi of Cherry Hill. She is one of many shoppers atThe Promenade shopping Center on Route 73 in Eveshamhorrified to hear that a 75 year old woman was critically hurt from a man who snatched her purse. "That's horrible, that's horrible," said Polizzi.It happened Wednesday night around 8:30. Police say the woman was walkingwhen a man came up alongside her and violently grabbe...
  • Local Military Family Behind 'Goodbye Monsters' Book, Protector

    Local Military Family Behind 'Goodbye Monsters' Book, Protector

    Friday, August 22 2014 10:00 PM EDT2014-08-23 02:00:16 GMT

    A South Jersey veteran and his wife responded to bedtime fears with a new book called "Goodbye Monsters," and it comes with a protector!

    A South Jersey veteran and his wife responded to bedtime fears with a new book called "Goodbye Monsters," and it comes with a protector!

  • Clerk Shot During Wilmington Liquor Store Robbery

    Clerk Shot During Wilmington Liquor Store Robbery

    Friday, August 22 2014 6:38 PM EDT2014-08-22 22:38:37 GMT
    A surveillance camera catches it all as two workers at Cutrona Liquors in Wilmington struggling to keep a gunman out of their North Market Street shop.
    A surveillance camera catches it all as two workers at Cutrona Liquors in Wilmington struggling to keep a gunman out of their North Market Street shop.
Powered by WorldNow

35 Skyline Drive
Lake Mary, FL 32746

Phone: (407) 644-3535
News Tips: (866) 55-FOX35

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices