Cops: Doctor was strangled to death


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The doctor found bound and set on fire in her Center City home Monday was strangled, police say.

Firefighters responded to Melissa Ketunuti’s rowhome on the 1700 block of Naudain Street in Southwest Center City at about 12:30 p.m. Monday, where they found the 35-year-old woman ablaze, with her ankles and wrists bound. The woman had been discovered by her dog-walker.

Fire crews put out the blaze, and Ketunuti was pronounced dead at the scene about 15 minutes later.

Capt. James Clark, commanding officer of the Philadelphia police homicide unit, said investigators believe the cause of her death was strangulation.

Authorities are trying to determine whether she knew her killer. Police say Ketunuti had visited several stores the day she died, and investigators are reviewing surveillance footage from the area.

Neither Ketunuti's boyfriend nor the dog-walker who found her are suspects, Clark said.

The physician was often seen around her neighborhood, walking Pooch, her black lab mix, or going for a run. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia pediatrician came to Philadelphia in 2008 to begin a residency at the medical center.

For several years, Ketunuti wrote a blog detailing her travels around the world and updates on her personal life.

In October 2008, as she prepared to move to Philadelphia after finishing a surgical internship in Washington, D.C., she wrote: “The CHOP pediatrics program, aside from being one of the largest in the country (40 something residents per year), is an incredibly supportive program. People are rooting for my success and education, which is a very different vibe than at Georgetown. As sexy as it was to be a life-saving surgeon, I feel much better suited for pediatrics.”

Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter