Share This Page

Police: Philly doc pleaded for life during attack

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — A pediatrician pleaded for her life as she was strangled in the basement of her home in January by an exterminator she had met only about an hour before, police said Wednesday.

The account of the young doctor's final moments occurred at a preliminary hearing for 37-year-old suspect Jason Smith, who reportedly told investigators that the slaying was the result of a petty argument and that he “freaked out” afterward.

“I'm sorry. I just wish that I could take it all back,” Smith said in a statement to police. “Since that day, I keep waking up and thinking it was all a bad dream.”

A detective read the newly released account in municipal court, after which a judge ordered Smith to stand trial on charges including murder and arson.

Smith said he violently attacked Melissa Ketunuti on Jan. 21 when she criticized his efforts to get rid of mice in her downtown Philadelphia rowhouse.

“She said that I shouldn't be an exterminator, that I didn't know what I was doing. ... I grabbed her by the neck and started choking her,” Smith told officers.

He said Ketunuti, 35, begged him to let go. “Please stop, please stop. I'm sorry. I'll do whatever you want,” she pleaded, the statement said.

Smith said he released her when he realized there was blood on the ground. He told police he then tied up Ketunuti with ropes he found in the basement and set fire to a box near her body in an effort to destroy evidence.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.