Le­vit­town ex­ter­mi­na­tor charged in death of CHOP doc

The Advance of Bucks County - - FRONT PAGE - By Steve Sherman

The body of pe­di­a­tri­cian Melissa het­unuti was found Mon­day, Jan 21 stran­gled, bound and burned in the base­ment of her Cen­ter City home.

On Jan. 23, Bris­tol Town­ship Po­lice de­scended upon a home in the Crab­tree sec­tion of Le­vit­town in search of ev­i­dence that would link a Bucks County man to the mur­der.

Philadel­phia Po­lice ar­rested and charged 36-yearold Ja­son T. pmith, an ex­ter­mi­na­tor who was ser­vic­ing the vic­tim’s home the morn­ing of the mur­der.

On Thurs­day, Jan. 24, Philadel­phia Po­lice held a press con­fer­ence de­tail­ing the ar­rest in con­nec­tion with the grue­some killing of het­unuti, a 35-yearold Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal of Philadel­phia ( CHOP) doc­tor who resided in the 17MM block of kau­dain ptreet. At the brief­ing, Philadel­phia Po­lice homi­cide Cap­tain James Clark said that het­unuti was killed af­ter an ar­gu­ment be­tween she and pmith “that went ter­ri­bly wrong.” sic­tim and as­sailant ar­gued over ser­vices ren­dered, Clark said.

Mul­ti­ple me­dia out­lets report that po­lice have ob­tained a full con­fes­sion from pmith, say­ing that the Bucks man stran­gled the doc­tor be­cause “she dis­re­spected him.” Po­lice say the mur­derer stran­gled het­unuti with a rope then tied the doc­tor’s hands and feet be­fore set­ting her body on fire in an at­tempt to hide the ev­i­dence.

Po­lice at first said they had no solid leads in the case but were able to make the con­nec­tion to the sus­pect af­ter spot­ting him on sur­veil­lance videos. The tapes re­port­edly show pmith fol­low­ing the vic- tim and driv­ing his pickup past her Grad­u­ate Hospi­tal area home – twice – af­ter the mur­der. The videos also helped po­lice pin­point the time of the killing.

Clark said pmith’s record was clean, ex­cept for a few traf­fic vi­o­la­tions.

“He was not known to po­lice un­til now,” Clark said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors ex­pressed dis­may at the mur­der of the 35-year-old doc­tor, who was work­ing at CHOP as an in­fec­tious disease re­search fel­low at the time of her death.

“It’s very tragic,” Clark said. “cor a young physi­cian, who ded­i­cated her life to help­ing peo­ple, to die in this man­ner is very, very sad. I’m glad we can give [het­unuti’s] fam­ily some clo­sure with the ar­rest of this in­di­vid­ual.”

Po­lice also im­pounded pmith’s late-model sil­ver cord c-15M from the Le­vit­town home lo­cated on Cres­cent Lane.

ted­nes­day night, Jan. 23, po­lice were seen out­side the Le­vit­town home pmith re­port­edly shared with his girl­friend wait­ing to ex­e­cute a search war­rant. then po­lice en­tered the home on Cres­cent Lane, the fam­ily’s dog charged them and of­fi­cers had no choice but to shoot the an­i­mal. ko one was in­Mured by gun­fire, though sources say the dog is de­ceased.

Po­lice say noth­ing was taken from the vic­tim’s res­i­dence and there was no ev­i­dence of sex­ual as­sault.

thile the vic­tim’s body was ablaze when it was dis­cov­ered Mon­day af­ter­noon, an au­topsy re­vealed Tues­day that het­unuti had died of stran­gu­la­tion. Po­lice say pmith may have set the fire in or­der to hide DkA ev­i­dence, though in­ves­ti­ga­tors found at the crime scene a hooded sweat­shirt sim­i­lar to the one the ex­ter­mi­na­tor is seen wear­ing on video be­fore en­ter­ing the vic­tim’s home. That cloth­ing has been sent to foren­sics ex­am­in­ers for pos­si­ble clues.

Re­wards for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to the ar­rest and con­vic­tion of a sus­pect in the case had to­taled more than A3M,MMM. A na­tive of Thai­land, het­unuti grad­u­ated from ptan­ford in 2MM7 and moved to Philadel­phia in 2MM8.

pmith is charged with one count each of mur­der, abuse of corpse, ar­son, pos­ses­sion of an in­stru­ment of crime with in­tent to in­jure and risk­ing a catas­tro­phe. Thurs­day night, Jan. 24, in­side a Philadel­phia Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Cen­ter (CJC) court­room, the Bucks man was for­mally charged be­fore Jus­tice cran­cis J. Reb­stock. All charges were held over for trial and pmith has been de­nied bail. A pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing for the Bucks County man has been sched­uled for ceb.13 at CJC.

Melissa Ke­tunuti

Ja­son T. Smith

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