Published On: Sat, Jan 26th, 2013

Melissa Ketunuti murder case update: Jason Smith motive and her family’s statement

Melissa Ketunuti’s murder earlier this week was both shocking and brutal. Authorities are now revealing more details, including a motive for Jason T. Smith to kill the Philadelphia doctor.

Jason T Smith

Jason T Smith

An argument between Smith, an exterminator and the Center City Philadelphia doctor led to her gruesome death inside the basement of her home, police said. Ketunuti had been bound and then set on fire. Ketunuti’s dog walker discovered her body, according to police.

A law enforcement source said surveillance cameras captured the man entering Ketunuti’s home on Monday, the same day authorities say she was brutally murdered. After Smith’s arrested, he confessed saying that he felt the woman was “disrespecting” him and was making fun of him – all leading him to “just snap.”

“At some points, he was solemn. At other points, it was like he was in a fog,” Capt. James Clark of the Philadelphia Police Department said at a news conference describing Smith and his confession.

He went to her home to address a rodent problem, got into the fight which led to him striking the woman.

Ketunuti is described as a “promising doctor,” who graduated from medical school in 2007, moved to Philadelphia from Washington in 2008 for a three-year residency in pediatrics. She was in her second year of working as a researcher and fellow in infectious diseases, the hospital said.

She previously had residencies in surgery at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington and cardiothoracic surgery at a veterans hospital.

Thursday night, there was a candlelight vigil attended by 80 or so of her neighbors, friends and colleagues from CHOP. Her family is en route from Bangkok to Philadelphia to bury their beloved daughter.

Friday afternoon, one of Melissa’s college roommates was asked by her parents to release a statement on behalf of their family.

It reads:

The family and friends of Melissa Ketunuti are devastated by this senseless act of violence that has ended the life of someone who was so loved, cherished and admired.

Melissa was a loving daughter and friend, a dedicated physician and a talented researcher. She was known by her residency and fellowship colleagues as a positive and compassionate presence. Her passion for medicine — international medicine, in particular — was an inspiration to those who worked with her.

Melissa’s friends from childhood, college, residency and elsewhere remember her many kindnesses, even during long hours, as well as her zest for life: traveling, running and spending time with friends and family.

Melissa was a source of joy to everyone in her life. Her passing has left an enormous gap in our lives, and the family requests privacy to mourn during this difficult time.



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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at theglobaldispatch@gmail ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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