Philly police arrest exterminator on charges of killing CHOP pediatrician

A Levittown exterminator is being charged with the murder of Melissa Ketunuti, a 35-year old doctor at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia whose body was found in her Center City home on Monday.  At a press conference Thursday morning, Philadelphia Police Captain James Clark said exterminator Jason Smith used a rope to strangle the doctor. 

Clark said Smith gave a statement to police and is now being charged with murder. 

When asked the obvious question — “Why did the exterminator kill the doctor?” Clark said, “The only thing I can tell you is she needed an exterminator, she called a certain service, he was sub-contracted out.  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 the exterminator may have set the woman’s body on fire in an attempt to hide evidence.  He said an intense and thorough investigation by the Homicide Unit pin-pointed Smith as the suspect. 

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“They went through hours of surveillance, like I said the detectives did an unbelievable job of finding every bit of footage that was in that area and what we saw was the eventual suspect actually following about 30 seconds behind the decedent down 18th Street and then onto Naudain Street,” said Clark,  “which lead us to him.”

Clark said the accused man — who was not known to police for any serious infractions before this — was solemn and somewhat regretful when speaking with police. 

According to Clark, the doctor let Smith into her home willingly because she had made an appointment for an exterminator to deal with a rodent problem in her home.  He advised residents to be careful who they let into their homes.  

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal