Exterminator found guilty in murder of Children's Hospital doctor

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- An exterminator has been found guilty in the murder of a young pediatrician and researcher at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

35-year-old Dr. Melissa Ketunuti had graduated from Stanford University medical school, worked in Botswana and spent about five years at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia as a physician and researcher.

37-year-old Jason Smith was found guilty of murder and related offenses Wednesday. Police say he was the last person known to have visited her home.

It happened in a row house on the 1700 block of Naudain Street in January of 2013.

Police say Smith from Levittown, Pa. ended up strangling Ketunuti and setting her body on fire in the basement.

Shortly after he was arrested, Smith gave police a lengthy confession.

He told them Ketunuti confronted him in the basement and started questioning his work. He said he eventually became enraged and started choking her.

He told police she cried out, "Please stop, please stop. I'm sorry. I'll do whatever you want."

Investigators found her with a belt around her neck and her wrists and ankles tied with rope.

Police say he then told investigators he then piled every flammable item within reach onto the body and set it on fire.

Video surveillance showed Smith leaving the house and getting into his pickup truck.

A few days later, only Action News was there as police arrested Smith and towed the truck away from his home in Levittown.

He sobbed in court as his confession was read during his preliminary hearing last April.

Smith's defense attorney contends he made a legitimate house call and that detectives squeezed a confession out of him because they wanted to solve the case.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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