Read confession in Center City doctor murder

PHILADELPHIA - April 10, 2013


That confession was read in open court on Wednesday during the preliminary hearing for 36-year-old Jason Smith.

Smith, an exterminator from Bucks County, was called to the home of Melissa Ketunuti back on January 21st to take care of a rodent problem.

Ketunuti's burning body was found in the basement of her home in the 1700 block of Naudain Street later that day.

Smith was arrested three days later at his home in Levittown, Pa.

During Wednesday's hearing, Smith was ordered to be held for trial. He will appear in court for an arraignment next month.

Ketunuti's family was also in court on Wednesday, but they left without comment.

Below is the transcript from the confession as released by the Philadelphia Police Department:

Q. During our talk, you told us that you killed Melissa Ketunuti. Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you understand that everything will be forwarded over to the District Attorney's Office for further review and you will be charged with her murder?

A. Yes.

Q. Can you tell us in your own words what you know about the death of Melissa Ketunuti?

A. I went to her house to do an exterminating job for mice. Her dog kept bothering me so I told her to put the dog outside. She didn't seem happy about that. So I did my job in the upstairs where the kitchen area is. I went downstairs to the basement. I saw that the basement needed a lot of work. There were a lot of holes down there. I told her to come downstairs so I could show her. She didn't like what I had to say about her basement, that all these things had to be fixed. She didn't like how I was doing my job. She wanted me to foam the entire basement. That didn't make any sense. She said that's what I'm paying you for. I told her that I didn't have enough material to foam the whole basement and that I wasn't going to do it. She wouldn't move out of the way. She said that I shouldn't be an exterminator, that I didn't know what I was doing. I grabbed her and moved her out of the way. I grabbed her by the neck and started choking her. I realized there was blood on the ground. I let go of her. I saw the ropes that were on the shelf. I tied her up. Then I set her on fire. I grabbed my [expletive] and ran out of there.

Q. What did you use to set her on fire?

A. I used a paper towel. I lit it on the stove. I threw it in a box and I took off.

Q. Where was the box at in relation to Melissa Ketunuti?

A. The box was near her head. There may have been Styrofoam wrapping inside of the box or something like that. I didn't use anything else to start the fire. I just threw the paper towel inside the box.

Q. Did Melissa Ketunuti say anything when you were choking her?

A. She was saying "Please stop, please stop. I'm sorry. I'll do whatever you want."

Q. How long have you been in her house working that day?

A. I was in the house for maybe about an hour or so I guess. I don't even know.

Q. Did you close the door when you left the house?

A. Yes.

Q. Did the dog stay in the backyard or did you let him in?

A. I let him in. He went downstairs after I let him in. I tried to get him to come back upstairs but he wouldn't come back upstairs.

Q. What did you do when you left Melissa Ketunuti's house?

A. I went and sat in my truck for about 3 minutes. My truck was parked on the corner of 18th and South St. I just sat in my truck. I didn't know what to do.

Q. Why did you drive thru her block after you left?

A. I didn't know what to do. I was thinking about going back into the house and try to put the fire out. But I decided not to and I kept driving.

Q. Where did you go after you left the area?

A. I got on I-95 and went home. I grabbed my ladder and drove to New Jersey for another job.

Q. What were you wearing that day?

A. Jeans, black North Face jacket, brown work boots, and a gray skull cap.

Q. Have you ever been to Melissa Ketunuti's house before?

A. Yes for the first visit.

Q. When was that?

A. Probably the prior Thursday or Friday. I went there but she didn't show up.

Q. How did she schedule the appointment?

A. I called her from my cell phone. My number is [redacted]. I have a Cricket cell phone.

Q. What time was your appointment set for Monday?

A. Probably between 11 or 12. I got there before the scheduled time. It was probably a couple minutes before 11.

Q. When did you first learn that Melissa Ketunuti's body had been discovered?

A. I think it was Tuesday afternoon. I think I was watching [local TV station] about 5 or 6pm.

Q. Did you tell anyone what happened?

A. No.

Q. What type of vehicle do you have?

A. I have a Ford F-150. It's tan in color.

Q. Why did you tie her up?

A. I don't know why I tied her up. I just did it.

Q. Why did you set her on fire?

A. I was just trying to get rid of the evidence that was there. That's why I threw it into the box.

Q. What evidence were you trying to destroy?

A. I don't know, footprints, handprints. I just freaked the [expletive] out. I don't know.

Q. Did you do anything sexual to Melissa Ketunuti?

A. No.

Q. Did you take anything from Melissa Ketunuti's house?

A. I didn't deliberately take anything. I just grabbed my [expletive] and got the [expletive] out of there.

Q. At any time did you leave the front door open?

A. No. I closed the door when I left. I didn't lock it or anything like that.

Q. Were you wearing gloves when you strangled Melissa Ketunuti?

A. Yes, they were black and red colored utility gloves - they're leather with Velcro straps.

Q. Where are the gloves now?

A. I guess they are in my bag or my truck somewhere.

Q. Have you ever met Melissa Ketuni prior to that day?

A. No I have never seen her before. I was just sitting in my truck waiting to go to her house and I knew it was almost time for me to go there so I went a little early.

Q. Is there anything else you can tell us about this incident at this time?

A. I don't think there's anything I can say. I'm sorry. I just wish I could take it all back. Since that day I keep waking up and thinking it was all a bad dream.

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