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Police Charge Levittown Man With CHOP Doctor's Murder

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PHILADELPHIA -

Police sources tell FOX 29 that investigators have charged a Levittown man with the murder of a pediatric doctor in Center City.

Philadelphia homicide detectives obtained search warrants around 8 p.m. Wednesday, went to Levittown, Bucks County, and took 36-year old Jason Smith into custody and brought him downtown around 11 p.m., sources say.

The body of 35-year-old Dr. Melissa Ketunuti was found Monday in the basement of her Naudain Street home.

Police say she had been strangled, and her body was set on fire with her hands and feet tide behind her back lying face down.

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia doctor returned to her home near Rittenhouse Square just before noon Monday after running errands. A short time later, her dog walker arrived at the house and found her body on fire in the basement.

After the discovery, police scoured through hours of surveillance video from cameras throughout the area,

FOX 29's Dave Schratwieser reported Wednesday night that video was the key to a break in the case. Both the person of interest and his truck were captured on the footage, and that led police to obtain their warrants.

Police traced back Ketunuti's final moments and, with that surveillance video from nearby businesses, were able to pinpoint the exact time of her murder to a one-hour period Monday morning, about 40 minutes before her body was found.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the person of interest is a 36-year-old exterminator who had a job in Ketunuti's Center City neighborhood, saw her running errands Monday morning and followed her home. The Levittown man is apparently caught on video walking, following her and then also driving his silver Ford pickup truck by her home after she was dead.

When police were waiting there to execute their search warrant Wednesday night, the Bucks County Courier Times reports that someone in the guy's house let a dog out. The dog ran down the steps, ready to attack, then police fired shots at the dog. No people were hit by any of the shots.

Police say no police officers were injured but have not commented on the dog's condition.

The Inquirer reports that the man lives in the house with his girlfriend, a child and the girlfriend's step-father. The house and the truck were searched, and even the family trash cans were looked through.

The pickup truck was taken from the Levittown home soon after Smith was taken downtown.

Arriving to work Thursday morning and about to get an update from homicide investigators, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he couldn't comment on specifics in the case.

But on his way into the roundhouse Ramsey spoke in general about what a key surveillance video can be.

"Well, I can't tell you how important video is," Ramsey said. "Video has just been absolutely remarkable when it comes to helping us solve cases. And, you know, we're fortunate to be able to sometimes recover video when there would be no other clues, quite frankly, that we would have available to us. Video can be the one thing that can solve a case."

FOX 29's Steve Keeley is reporting live all morning from outside the roundhouse.

Meanwhile, Ketunuti's family was reported to be traveling from Thailand to Philadelphia.

Stay with FOX 29 News and myfoxphilly.com for updates.

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