Melissa Ketunuti: Police ID CHOP pediatrician strangled and burned in Southwest Center City (UPDATE)

Police are investigating a grisly discovery made Monday afternoon inside a home on the 1700 block of Naudain Street in Southwest Center City.

Investigators have identified a burned body a dog walker found in the basement around 12:30 p.m. as that of 35-year-old homeowner Melissa Ketunuti, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She was pronounced dead on the scene.

Authorities said her hands and feet were bound behind her, a rope was tied around her neck and her body was set ablaze. They believe her cause of death to be strangulation.

Police said there were no signs of forced entry into the home, but they are unsure whether Ketunuti knew her attackers. “We don’t know if she walked in on individuals inside her property,” Capt. James Clark of the Homicide Unit said today.

“We don’t know if individuals forced her inside of her property. We don’t know if it’s a known doer or an unknown doer. Right now, we don’t know.”

Ketunuti lived alone. She was in a relationship, but her boyfriend has spoken with detectives and is not a suspect at this time, according to police.

Clark said Ketunuti had visited several locations in Center City yesterday before her death. “We’ve already backtracked two or three of them,” he said. “So far, we don’t have anyone following her, but I have detectives back out there still looking at some other locations that we know that she possibly was at, looking for video that would possibly show her killing.”

It is also unclear whether robbery is a possibility. “We have detectives back out there now with some people who are familiar with her and familiar with what she has in her house and then we’ll be able to answer that question,” Clark said. “Right now, we don’t know whether anything was taken from the property.”

As with any homicide, there is a $20,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of anyone involved in Ketunuti’s slaying.

“You have a young lady, she was [35] years of age, she had dedicated her whole life to being a doctor and to helping kids with cancer,” Clark said. “And it’s very, very unfortunate that she died this way.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 911, to contact the Homicide Unit at 215-686-3334, 3335 or 3336, or to submit an anonymous tip by dialing 215-686-TIPS (8477), texting PPD TIP (773847), emailing tips@phillypolice.com, or by filling out this online form.

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