Person of Interest in CHOP Doctor Killing: Sources

Police sources say investigators have a Bucks County man in custody in the strangulation of a CHOP Pediatrician set on fire inside her Center City home Monday

By Dan Stamm, David Chang and Katy Zachry
|  Thursday, Jan 24, 2013  |  Updated 12:39 AM EDT
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Sources said that Philadelphia Police questioned a

NBC10.com - Katy Zachry

Sources said that Philadelphia Police questioned a "person of interest" in the murder of a doctor in her Center City home. NBC10's Katy Zachry has breaking details in the case.

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Reward Raised in CHOP Doctor Investigation

There is now a $35,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the person that murdered Dr. Melissa Ketunuti. Her dog walker and boyfriend have been interviewed, but none are suspects in the case. NBC10's Lu Ann Cahn reports.

Detectives Investigate Murder of CHOP Doctor

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.
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Wednesday night, police sources told NBC10 that investigators had a person of interest in the death of a pediatrician that rocked Center City.

Sources say that the man being questioned is from Levittown, Pa. They also served a search warrant on the man's Bucks County home, sources said.

Chopper 10 captured police towing a silver pickup truck from the home on Crescent Lane in Levittown back to the city.

No one was arrested in the case as of late Wednesday.

A $35,000 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.

Police looked at surveillance video at several locations to see if anyone was following Ketunuti before her death. Police say they gained valuable information from some of those videos.

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, believed to be her boyfriend, was seen leaving the home later on, distraught and speechless. Police say he isn't a suspect.

Investigators say there were no signs of forced entry into Ketunuti's home.

"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.

No arrests were made as of Wednesday afternoon as more reward money came in from various organizations.

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, who found her burning body, 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.

If you have any information on her death, please call Philadelphia Police at 215-686-3334.

 


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