PHILADELPHIA (AP) – A city 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 came 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.
According to Smith, he violently attacked Melissa Ketunuti on Jan. 21 after she allegedly 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, according to the statement.
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.
When police pressed him on what evidence he wanted to destroy, Smith faltered.
“I don’t know, footprints, handprints. I just freaked … out,” he told them, using an expletive.
Smith then fled the property, though surveillance video from nearby businesses showed him driving by the house several times after the killing. The video helped lead to his arrest a few days later at his Levittown home.
Smith’s lawyer did not immediately return a request for comment.
Ketunuti was a well-regarded researcher at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Skin Cancer in Arizona: Stats, facts and new immunotherapy drugs making strides
- Caring Crisis: Rising tide In Alzheimer’s disease leads to shortage of caregivers
- Distracted walking injuries end up not so funny
- Scary situations: 5 quick tips before you let a contractor in your home
- Four ways telemedicine is changing the health care industry
- 5 mistakes homeowners make in the spring
- Three rivers run through it: Exploring Arizona's waterways
- Smart home basics: things you need to know to get started
- 5 Surprising things causing back pain
- Arizona agriculture is a $17.1B industry
- Timeline: Arizona's roots in brewing history
- 5 reasons to love the D-backs this season
- Tips for taking your home entertainment experience to the backyard
- Tech-related injuries your parents never experienced
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments
- Here’s why Gaydos went tankless with his water heater
- Bocce ball and basketball: How you can help Arizona's Special Olympics athletes
- Tips on building the best wine room in Arizona
- Avoid the nightmare: 6 tips to choose a great contractor
- Breast cancer: Improved testing and treatments means more survivors
- Failed back surgery: New hope for patients living in pain