Melissa Ketunuti, a researcher into infectious diseases in children, was strangled, bound, and set ablaze in the basement of her home in Center City, Philadelphia.
Melissa Ketunuti, worked as a pediatrician and infectious disease researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). On Monday, January 21, the police found her body in her home, according to CBS News. She had been strangled, tied up and then her body had been set on fire.
A 36-year-old man, Jason Smith, was arrested soon afterwards. Smith is employed as a pest exterminator was seen in surveillance footage in the vicinity of Ketunuti’s row house. Records at the company where Smith is employed also show that he had an appointment to tend to a rodent problem at ther home the day she was killed.
Smith has reportedly confessed the crime to Philadelphia police, and is in prison awaiting trial. Police have charged Smith with murder, arson, abuse of a corpse, and risking a catastrophe (the latter charge is due to him starting the fire).
Philadelphia police homicide unit Captain James Clark said at a press conference, reported by ABC, that Ketunuti and Smith had never met prior to the incident. Smith’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 13.
Ketunuti was a talented scientist. Paul Offit, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, who worked with her, said in a statement summarized by NY Daily News: “Melissa was a warm, caring, earnest, bright young woman with her whole future ahead of her. 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.”