Levittown, Philadelphia — On Monday, 35-year-old Melissa Ketunuti was found on fire in her basement. Her hands and feet had been bound there was a rope around her neck. An autopsy would show the pediatrician had been strangled to death.
Today, police have arrested Jason T. Smith, the exterminator the doctor had hired to take care of a rodent problem in her home that day, and have charged him with murder. Police zeroed in on Smith after his truck was captured on surveillance video near Ketunuti’s home.
After he was identified and picked up on Wednesday, Smith admitted to police that he “just snapped” after getting into an argument with Ketunuti and felt like she was disrespecting him and was making fun of him. He said after striking her, he got on top of her and began strangling her.
Once she was dead, Smith says he panicked and tried to cover up the crime by dousing Ketunuti’s body with accelerant and setting her on fire. Smith has been charged with murder, abuse of a corpse, risking arson, and risking a catastrophe. Aside from minor traffic violations, Smith does not have a criminal record.
Smith lives with girlfriend of six years, her mother and his daughter. Neighbors described him as a family man and are stunned at the news. “It’s crazy because…he’s outside always playing with his children. I mean, he doesn’t seem like that kind of guy,” one of his neighbors said.
Ketunuti was a native of Thailand and was a pediatric doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.