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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.

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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.

Michael Snyder January 24, 2013 at 02:58 PM
The charge is murder. Remember, we live in a country where you're innocent until proven guilty. The investigation isn't over. No due process has been finished. He has been charged. If you fit the description and you owned a similar vehicle, this article could be about you. There are good cops and bad cops. Some cops screw up. Some cops lie. On a daily basis, nationwide, cops kill the wrong person, dog, cat, child. Some accidentally, some intentionally. I wasn't at the scene, so I don't know what happened. The news screws up. What's wrong with this picture is all of you are feeding into this without any personal research being done. You give opinions that are based off of a one page news article. If you truly cared about situations like these, you would be getting involved - not getting involved by giving an anonymous opinion to appease your sense of caring. What this article says to me is "Someone who fit the description of a person of interest has been detained by police and enough information has been put together to charge him with murder...and the cops shot a dog." This is life, not reality TV. Treat it with respect.
Stephanie Sarachilli January 24, 2013 at 03:02 PM
Did she work locally in Newton. I think that's my son ped. Dr. This is horrible.
sas January 24, 2013 at 03:09 PM
Please keep to the important part of the story. A young women was murdered by a POS. Since when is an animals life more important than a humans life? I'm a huge animal lover and would never want to see harm to any animal wild or domestic. But seriously we are talking about an innocent human life.
B. Strong January 24, 2013 at 03:30 PM
exactly. it sickens me how people are pro-animal but not pro-life where HUMAN life is concerned. do they stand up for humans in danger of being killed? doubt it.
CMC January 24, 2013 at 03:38 PM
The priority is catching the murderer. Period. If the dog was let out, who here can say whether it was accidental or purposeful? It could have been accidental, but it certainly could have been a guise beiing used by the suspect to distract police.....or the dog could have had explosives strapped to it that could hurt others....how are the police to know under those circumstances? If this person could potentially have comitted this heinous crime, what's to make someone think he might not use an animal to harm others.........clearly the person has no regard for life of ANY kind. God bless the doctor, her family and friends. And may the perpetrator of this crime get the fullest punishment.
Chris Taylor Jr January 24, 2013 at 05:28 PM
you are aware that if you harm or kill a police dog you are charged as if you harmed or killed a police officer right? so its good enough for their dogs but not ours? really? go get a life and grow up.
Chris Taylor Jr January 24, 2013 at 05:29 PM
so can you explain to me how shooting the dog (assuming it was shot that is not in the facts portrayed here) will undo her murder or help their investigation in any way shape or form? please by all means enlighten me.
Chris Taylor Jr January 24, 2013 at 05:36 PM
yep thank the police who keep pulling me over when I come home at 4am and proclaiming "I did not see your seat belt" or "I saw you go over the line" (I have a dash cam I can prove I did not) while they have never DONE anything to me (I am all legal of course) it irkes the crap out of me that they do not seem to have any scumbags to go after (as you say) so they harrass me and LIE for probable cause to pull me over (this is why I fought against the seat belt law I KNEW it would be converted to a primary offense and then ABUSED to eliminate the 4th amendment in your car) I respect the hard work that MOST police do. and most police ARE just hard working individuals putting their lives at risk but THEY VOLUNTARILY put their lives at risk. they have the training and they have the authority to END my life and get away with it. with great power comes great responsibility and yet police by and large shirk that responsibility in favor of abuse of power (in how they cover for each other instead of weeding out the few bad apples in their ranks) I am not saying they did anything wrong in this situation. we don't have enough facts. He was not the murderer. the murderer is already in custody and has already confessed. he is a person of interest and under OUR LEGAL SYSTEM he is innocent till a jury of his peers says otherwise. OUR RIGHTS are superior in importance to their job of getting criminals off the street. ALWAYS. the moment you forget that you have no rights.
Chris Taylor Jr January 24, 2013 at 05:43 PM
The man gave up without resistance. their lives were NOT at risk. they voluntarily put their lives on the line and they are TRAINED as such. this does not "revoke" the right to life of anything in their path. what gives YOU the right to proclaim the SLIGHT risk of injury to the cop is worth more than the life of the dog. what gives YOU that right. No one said a dogs life is more important than a humans except for you. only you. their was no split second decision. they had a massive team of well armed well trained well armored officers vehicles and a helicopter. the "suspect" was not going anywhere. the dog is no distraction. it would have ZERO impact on an attempt to take a hostage or flee the DOG can only interact with ONE individual at a time. it was a "non issue" period. they were GETTING the man whether they shot a dog or not. that was "NEVER" in question. again TEAM of officers well armored well armed well trained with vehicles and a helicopter in CRAB TREE LEVITTOWN. there was NEVER any doubt they were getting the guy. period. if you think a single dog was going to have ANY impact at all on that outcome you are truly clueless to reality in this situation. The reason people get upset is that pets appear to have "zero" value to a lot of police officers. enough such that its pretty common for them to "penalty kill" a pet out of spite or vengeance against the suspect. killing pets of so little threat they could do nothing and be unharmed by the pet
Bob Crane January 24, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Typical ADHD Levittowners...instead of being concerned that another one of your finest citizens made national news for a horrible crime. You instead focus on the stupid dog being shot?
Chris Taylor Jr January 24, 2013 at 05:48 PM
Just you folks remember what the JOB of the "authorities" is. its NOT to protect us. it was never to protect us and it was never SUPPOSED to be to protect us. that's OUT job. if you abdicate your personal responsibility in this matter that is your problem. the SOLE JOB FUNCTION of all powers of authority is as follows. To Preserve protect and defend the constitution of the united states of america from all enemies foreign and domestic. that is the JOB of your postal worker that is the JOB of a cop on the beat that is the JOB of the judge the JOB of the governor the JOB of every congressman and the JOB of the president of the united states of america and the JOB of every soldier in her armed forces. ALL OTHER FUNCTIONS are secondary and subservient to this one supreme sworn oath. their one true JOB. REMEMBER that folks. remember it well. FIRST preserve the constitution Second PROTECT Third DEFEND. THAT is their job. I am not saying these officers did not do that job. this is in reply so some of the sketchier replies in this thread.
Carol Robidoux January 24, 2013 at 06:05 PM
Horrific doesn't really begin to describe it. Just discovering the suspect lives a few streets away from my Levittown home. Beyond the tragedy, I can't help but notice the unfortunate play on words here, when police say "Smith did not go to Ketunuti's home with the intention of killing her, he originally went there to service her as an exterminator." That, he did. My sincere sympathy to Melissa's family for this unbearable heartbreak.
Chris Taylor Jr January 24, 2013 at 06:30 PM
"Obviously a cop would never purposely shoot an innocent person or pet but if a dog is coming toward them, they must shoot" your gonna have to explain that to me. SO when the poodle comes yipping toward the cops. yep teeny tiny dog with teeth so small they would not be able to penetrate his PANTS. they have to shoot? explain to me the source of your information that they "have to shoot" also we have dozens of cases of police maliciously "killing" the family pet not because it attacked them but as "punishment" to the family strung up with zip ties on the kitchen floor and the poodle won't stop barking and not murder suspects either. sure seems like "those" cops purposely shot a pet. I have also seen cases of cops shooting innocent people too. lots and lots of those. you don't get to use that information you posted about cops. the reason is simple. THEY CHOOSE to do perform that function. they SELECTED that line of work. if they can't "deal" with that kind of work without abusing the citizens around them then its time to find a new line of work. NOT to cover for them and say but its tough work. poo hoo is them. could you do it ? lines of crap. again NOT saying they did anything wrong with this arrest. maybe it was a mangy mad drooling pit bull and they genuinely feared it ?? we don't know. but YOUR blanket statements are also BS as well.
Chris Taylor Jr January 24, 2013 at 06:34 PM
you only know about it because your watching a geo specific news source. plenty of other murders all over the country. levittown is by no means "special" in this regard. the murder is largely irrelevant to me. they know about the murder they have a matching suspect he is being charged. SO from a citizen stand point there is really not much to discuss on that specific portion of the topic. SO people will find other stuff to talk about.
notsosunnyinphila January 24, 2013 at 06:35 PM
P.S. He confessed. Which makes him guilty. He felt like she was disrespecting him and making fun of him? It sounds to me as if he has an inferiority complex and that he felt that way around her because frankly she was a successful doctor and he was in his own mind a nothing. What a waste of a brilliant person. She could have made such a difference in many young lives. May God bless her family and bring peace to them knowing that she cared for so many little lives before she left this earth. I hope that she continues to look over the little ones in heaven. I also hope that there is a special place in hell for Tom Smith. May he rot in it.
notsosunnyinphila January 24, 2013 at 06:55 PM
Chris, if you break the line it is probable cause to pull you over as is the seat belt . Why then not just wear the seat belt and stay within the lines? Seems pretty simple to me!!! BTW you do have the right to say, "No". When asked if they can search your car. They need a search warrant for that as long as they can't see anything illegal. Police officer also can't just arbitrarily shoot you and get away with it. Investigations go into police shootings as well. That is a fallacy. I don't know what town you live in but I don't here of police killing citizens all the time and getting away with it. It just doesn't happen. Although our rights are very important I ask you this, if your 8 year old daughter is raped and killed by a child rapist that had been put back out on the street because of some technicality (i.e. a question was asked by police after he asked for an atty). Would you still think his rights were the most important thing? Or perhaps would having him off the street been more important prior to the rape and death of a child? Just a hypothetical.
Chris Taylor Jr January 24, 2013 at 07:27 PM
You did not just seriously reply with that? really? that is your best? seriously? OF COURSE I WAS WEARING MY SEAT BELT AND WITH THE DASH CAM I CAN PROVE I did not go over the line. Only a flipping idiot gets into car without a seat belt. period. problem is these claims are "automatic probable cause" for police since the only way to challenge it is if I can prove the cop LIED. you see it does not matter if I actually was wearing a seat belt (I was) or if i did not go over the line (I did not) all he has to do is CLAIM I was not or I did and my 4th amendment protections are GONE. the only way around it would be to somehow have a recording of him ADMITTING he was lying and even then that would only help after the fact. this is precisely why they made it a primary offense. the courts were spanking the police for having no probable cause so they invented permanent probable cause. PEOPLE LIKE ME fought this so they made it a "secondary" offense. people like me CONTINUED to fight because WE knew this is precisely what they would do. wait a couple years and convert it to a primary offense. NOW no probable cause is actually needed any longer in your car they simply need to LIE and proclaim you went over the line or they did not see a seat belt and you are POWERLESS. they never searched. I refused (politely) all questions but I had no choice but to present my "papers please" at his command and he knows it.
Chris Taylor Jr January 24, 2013 at 07:55 PM
"Police officer also can't just arbitrarily shoot you and get away with it. Investigations go into police shootings as well. That is a fallacy" actually yes, they can, very easily. the only reason its not more common is that MOST officers really are decent hardworking people. "Although our rights are very important I ask you this, if your 8 year old daughter is raped and killed by a child rapist that had been put back out on the street because of some technicality (i.e. a question was asked by police after he asked for an atty). Would you still think his rights were the most important thing?" I am sorry but YES rights are more important than having him off the street. you TRIED to ask a trick question by playing the child rape card (shame on you) and by saying HIS rights. its not HIS rights I am worried about. its MY RIGHTS. or are you ignorant of the HUNDREDS of cases of 100% innocent people ROTTING in jail for decades on false rape charges because the police violated the rules. the rules designed to keep that innocent person out of jail. I would rather see 1000 murderers go free than a single innocent person ROT for a murder they did not commit. its that simple. we can always catch the 1000 murderers later. you can NEVER replace the destroyed life of the innocent person. ever. NOTHING is more important than ones rights. nothing. until you ACCEPT that through and through to your very core you open yourself to living in tyranny.
notsosunnyinphila January 24, 2013 at 08:12 PM
Chris Taylor you and I will have to agree to disagree on this. I don't believe that there is conspiracy theory that you seem to think that we have. I drive home late at night and I have never been pulled over. Literally never have I been pulled over. So God bless America that you can have your say and I can have mine. Be well.
sue domin January 24, 2013 at 09:24 PM
What is wrong with the young men in our society? We really need to figure that one out soon!
Chris Taylor Jr January 24, 2013 at 09:39 PM
your still trying very hard to make this my fault for some reason. First I don't believe in conspiracies. I believe most conspiracies are nothing more than long term planning and decision making pathways that regular people are ill equipped to comprehend (most people can't see past their nose for future planning not to speak of see decisions that encompass weeks months years or decades) Second I drive over 40,000 miles a year. 110 mile commute. so I have a higher probability of encounters. Point stands. Seat belt violations were a secondary offense. they STATED to us resisting this that they made it a secondary violation to PRESERVE our 4th amendment rights in our cars. this means they recognized that a seat belt primary violation was an obvious and easy 4th amendment violation candidate. YET they have made it a primary offense anyway. their intentions are clear. to violate the law with impunity since you can't "fight" a seat belt probable cause claim. you can fight a seat belt ticket (I just show the video that shows me IN my seat belt the entire ride) but this fact does not invalidate his probable cause which is the ENTIRE POINT. it means they can illegally pull over anyone they want for any reason they want without valid probable cause and all they have to do is lie and they have impunity because its impossible to prove they were lying. fact is. its a power police should not have. how can you argue otherwise? And I NEVER agree to disagree. ever.
RESQMOM January 24, 2013 at 09:43 PM
I would like to commend the Patch reporters for doing a great job in giving the readers and community informed about this tragic story.
Tom Sofield January 24, 2013 at 10:32 PM
We have posted an update with all the latest details on the case. http://patch.com/A-1w2Z
Deirdre johnston January 24, 2013 at 11:00 PM
He sounds like he's been a coiled up rattlesnake at it didn't take much for him to go crazy on a poor innocent victim. So many people today have absolutely no coping skills. All out for themselves. So sad.
Nancy January 24, 2013 at 11:24 PM
I agree with Samantha and I also have a son who is a police officer so I know how she feels to have a loved one who has to face the craziest of scenarios every single day. But, honestly I am a animal lover, and if at all possible, I feel like the police officer's should use mace or anything but not shoot the animal, unless absolutely necessary.
Nancy January 24, 2013 at 11:49 PM
Also I am grateful the murderer was caught. How very sad he couldn't have just talked it over with the woman. He just couldn't have been too emotionally stable,shows us single woman of today, you just can't be too trusting.
Jae January 25, 2013 at 03:59 AM
The dog went out in a more humane way than an actual human being.. you people are redic. If that was my sister, mother, friend, gf, cousin.. they better break the fn walls down and take out whoever stands in the way-be it barking family dog- of dragging that scumbag out of that house. How disrespectful to worry about the killers friggen dog, imagine this was your loved ones story. If everyone didn't have a "issue" when cops did their job, which is exactly this.. maybe they would do a little more of this and a lot less bullshitting around with petty crime. Ef that dog and the hand that fed him.. good like bristol/ philadelphia popo.. and R.I.P. to the ACTUAL victim Melissa Ketenuti.
Crimenewz1 January 25, 2013 at 04:42 AM
Heinous crime by a hillbillie psychotic killer. Who else has this rodent poisoner terminated? This sociopath went home & ate dinner, played with the kids and dog, made love to his girlfriend and went to sleep like it was nothing. This man has probably killed before, its just finding out who, when and where.
New Concerned Neighbor January 25, 2013 at 02:05 PM
If JS comitted this crime in such a vicious manner so quickly, it makes me think who else he may killed...
Shalina January 25, 2013 at 04:50 PM
Concerned Parent, You must not have a pet. If you did, you would realize that most people who have dogs, they are concidered family. Why is it crappy priority to feel bad for a lost family member of any kind? The police killed the familys dog because it barked at them. The reason they bark, is to alert the family of danger. They protect their families. And if you were to kill a police K9, you would be charged with the murder of a PERSON. So not ok to kill theirs, but perfectly fine to kill a family's. You seriouslt need to STFU. You are just an asshole.

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