Detective: Suspect apologized for killing

April 11, 2013 at 1:21 AM
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PHILADELPHIA, April 11 (UPI) -- An exterminator made a tearful apology for killing a Philadelphia pediatrician and setting her body on fire, a police officer testified Wednesday.

Jason Smith's confession was read at a preliminary hearing in municipal court, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. A judge ordered him held for trial on charges of murder and arson.

Smith was arrested in January, shortly after the body of Dr. Melissa Ketunuti was discovered in the basement of her row house in Center City. In his confession, he said he lost his temper when Ketunuti criticized his work while he was dealing with a mice infestation in the basement.

Police Detective Edward Tolliver said Smith wept continually as he admitted the crime and apologized.

A defense lawyer argued Smith should not be charged with arson because he did not intend to destroy the house when he set Ketunuti's body on fire. Municipal Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni disagreed.

Ketunuti, 35, was on the staff of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, one of the top pediatric hospitals in the United States.

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