NBC10 Philadelphia - Lu Ann Cahn
There is a $20,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the person that strangled and then burned the body of Dr. Melissa Ketunuti in the basement of her Center City home. NBC10's Lu Ann Cahn reports with the latest.
A $33,500 reward is being offered for the arrest and conviction of the people or person responsible for tying up a pediatrician, strangling her and then setting her body on fire.
Police were called around 12:30 p.m. on Monday to a home on the 1700 block of Naudain Street. When they arrived at the home, they say they found the body of Melissa Ketunuti, 35, a pediatric doctor at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, on fire in the basement.
Investigators say her hands and feet were bound and that there was some type of rope around her neck. They believe she was strangled and then set on fire. Firefighters who responded to the scene put the fire out.
On Tuesday her unidentified boyfriend was taken to the scene to investigate if anything was moved around inside the home. Investigators say he isn't a suspect.
"We don't know if she walked in on individuals inside her property, we don't know if individuals forced her inside of her property," said Police Capt. James Clark.
Neighbors tell NBC10 her dog-walker was the first to call police.
Investigators also say there were no signs of forced entry into Ketunuti's home.
No arrests were made as of late Tuesday night. Police looked at surveillance video at several locations to see if anyone was following Ketunuti before her death. Police say she had been out shopping hours before her death.
Tuesday afternoon, a man that police describe as a friend or colleague of Ketunuti accompanied detectives inside her home to see if anything was missing or out of place. That man was seen leaving the home later on, distraught and speechless.
Neighbors tell NBC10 they are shocked this could happen in their neighborhood.
"I always said hi to her and talked to her on the street, and she was always a polite, very nice person," said neighbor Pamela Rimato Tirone.
"You hope that it's a stalker or a boyfriend and not, like, a random act of violence," said neighbor Andrew Cattaneo. "That makes it almost more scary."
Ketunuti, a native of Thailand, lived alone. Investigators don't believe that her dog-walker was involved in her death.
"We have a young lady who dedicated her whole life to being a doctor and helping kids with cancer," said Clark. "It's very unfortunate that she died in this manner."
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia released the following statement:
The entire community of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of Dr. Melissa Ketunuti, a second year infectious diseases fellow and researcher at CHOP. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, colleagues and friends at this difficult time.
“Melissa was a warm, caring, earnest, bright young woman with her whole future ahead of her,” said Paul Offit, MD, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases. “But more than that, she was admired, respected and loved by those with whom she worked here at CHOP. Her death will have a profound impact on those who worked with her and we will all miss her deeply.”
Dr. Ketunuti had been at CHOP for five years, having first served as a resident in the Department of Pediatrics.
Police offered a $20,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest and conviction. In addition, the Citizens Crime Commission is offering an $13,500 reward. If you have any information on her death, please call Philadelphia Police at 215-686-3334.