UPDATE: Confession, Charges in Center City Slaying
MORE ON THE PHILLY POST ABOUT THIS CASE:
Looks Like Exterminator Charged With Center City Murder Got Good Reviews on Angie’s List
How Could Shocking Center City Murder Be Committed by a Monster So Ordinary? by Jonathan Valania
A 36-year-old man is being questioned by Philadelphia Police regarding the horrifying death of Center City resident Melissa Ketunuti, a pediatrician whose body was found earlier this week in her home, tied up, strangled, and set on fire.
The Inquirer reports the suspect “had not been charged as of Wednesday night, but sources said he was captured on surveillance footage near Ketunuti’s house around the time of the slaying. He was taken into custody in Levittown, where police were searching his house and vehicle.”
According to a police source, the person of interest is an exterminator who had a job scheduled in the neighborhood and followed Ketunuti to her home.
At the man’s house, a single two-story suburban residence that still displayed Christmas decorations and wire reindeer on the front lawn, investigators were scouring garbage cans Wednesday night as police helicopters hovered overhead. Police also towed his Ford F-150 truck.. An investigator said officers were “looking for any link to her.”
Neighbors said the man shared the house with his girlfriend, a young child, and the girlfriend’s stepfather.
PhillyBurbs.com adds the suspect was from Levittown:
Bristol Township Lt. Terry Hughes confirmed late Wednesday night that a 37-year-old man, whose name was not released, was picked up by township police at a home on Crescent Lane in the Crabtree section shortly after 8 p.m. Hughes said the man was taken to Philadelphia for questioning. The man’s silver pickup truck was towed from the home by Philadelphia police shortly after 11 p.m., Hughes confirmed.
Officers were fired at a dog while the suspect was taken into custody, killing it. Expect updates throughout the day.
UPDATE 8:38 a.m.: Charges are expected against the man soon, Inky crime reporter Mike Newall says:
UPDATE 8:50 a.m.: The suspect’s name is Jason Smith, Fox 29 reports:
UPDATE 9:26 a.m.: The Inquirer reports:
Sources say Jason Smith, 36, of Crescent Lane has confessed to police.
Smith had an appointment at Ketunuti’s home. At some point, the two got into an argument, the details of which have not been officially released. But police say Smith struck, then strangled Ketunuti. He set the body ablaze.
An 11 a.m. press conference is set by police to announce details of the developments.
UPDATE 11:13 a.m.: Philadelphia Police just held a press conference, announcing charges against Smith that include murder, arson, and abuse of a corpse.
Capt. James Clark of the Homicide Division said Smith is an exterminator hired to do work at the house on Monday. Smith was identified from video surveillance cameras in the neighborhood, and gave a statement to police after being taken into custody.
While at Ketunuti’s home, the two got into an argument, Clark said, though he declined to characterize the substance. “It went terribly wrong,” Clark said. “He struck her knocked her down, strangled her, and set her body on fire.” Why the fire? “The only thing I can surmise is he was attempting to hide evidence.”
Smith’s criminal history includes only minor traffic offenses, Clark said. “He’s not really known to police for anything serious.”
Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. praised detectives for bringing the case to a quick conclusion. “I want to underscore the great detective work that was done by the homicide unit,” Ross said. “I can’t stress enough how effective they were.”