Police: Doctor burned in Center City was apparently strangled (PHOTOS)

35-year-old Melissa Ketunuti, a doctor at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, was found bound and burned inside her home in the 1700 block of Naudain Street in Center City on Monday, January 21st.

January 22, 2013 8:40:57 AM PST
Philadelphia police say the doctor who was found burned inside the basement of a home in Center City appeared to have been strangled.


Police say the victim, 35-year-old Melissa Ketunuti, had her wrists and ankles bound behind her back when she was found on Monday afternoon, police said. Investigators also say she had what appeared to be rope around her neck.

Ketunuti's case of death appeared to be strangulation, police said. However, police are awaiting the results of an autopsy for the definitive cause of death.

When asked if there were any signs of sexual assault, Capt. James Clark of the Homicide Unit said during a news conference on Tuesday morning that while they were still awaiting those autopsy results, there were no immediate signs of sex assault.

Clark also said there were no suspects or a motive yet in this case. He said detectives were back out on the scene Tuesday looking for clues.

Clark said Ketunuti has a boyfriend and police were talking to him. However, Clark said that boyfriend is not a suspect at this time.

"She dedicated her whole life to being a doctor and helping kids with cancer. It's very, very unfortunate that she died in this manner," said Capt. Clark.

Ketunuti was a doctor taking part in a pediatric fellowship at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Police and firefighters found Ketunuti's body in the basement of 1728 Naudain Street while responding to a fire call around 12:30 p.m. Monday.

"They go in the basement. They find a female - her body's on fire. The fire department puts water on her to put the fire out," Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small said.

Neighbor Victor Pisani says Ketunuti lived at the home for a little over three years.

Another neighbor of the victim, Pamela Rimato-Tirone, is taking care of the her black Labrador Retriever.

Rimato-Tirone says she walked by the home just 10 minutes before the body was found and nothing seemed suspicious.

"Everything was fine. I saw a guy going to visit [the home next door] because someone passed away, they were holding Shiva there today, everything was fine," Rimato-Tirone said.

Police say there are no apparent signs of forced entry into the house.

"It didn't appear that the house was ransacked," Small said.

Police remind the public that there is a $20,000 reward for arrest and conviction in any homicide in the city.

On Tuesday morning, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said that Ketunuti was a second year infectious diseases fellow and researcher at CHOP.

"Melissa was a warm, caring, earnest, bright young woman with her whole future ahead of her," said Paul Offit, MD, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, in a written statement. "But more than that, she was admired, respected and loved by those with whom she worked here at CHOP. Her death will have a profound impact on those who worked with her and we will all miss her deeply."