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Suspect in Custody in CHOP Murder; Penn Student Dies After Fall; Basement of Horror Murder Charges
  by: iradioal - Philadelphia, PA
started: 01/24/13 2:53 am | updated: 01/24/13 3:28 am
Philadelphia Police now have a person of interest in custody in the strangulation and burning murder of Dr. Melissa Ketunuti, a CHOP Pediatrician, found Monday in her Center City home. The 37-year-old man police are calling a 'person of interest' is said to be from Levitown, PA, Bucks County. Police say he appears on surveillance video from the neighborhood near Ketunuti's home. A search warrant was also executed at his home Wednesday night and police towed his pickup truck. No charges yet, the investigation is still ongoing.

UPDATE:Exterminator, Jason Smith, Charged in Murder of CHOP Pediatrician Melissa Ketunuti after Confession

The 35-year-old doctor was discovered by her dog walker bound by the wrist and ankles, face down on the floor with rope tied around her neck and still burning. She was partially nude, wearing only a t-shirt but it appears she was not sexually assaulted. Investigators believe she was strangled. She has a boyfriend, however he is not a suspect. There were no signs of forced entry. Police are asking anyone with information to call 215-686-3334. The reward is now $35,000.

SEE ALSO: CHOP Pediatrician Murder Suspect Charged
SEE ALSO: Reward Now $35,000
SEE ALSO: CHOP Doctor Murderer Still Unknown
SEE ALSO: CHOP Pediatrician Murdered and Burned

Thomas J. Hartford, a 22-year-old senior at the University of Pennsylvania, died Wednesday after suffering a stroke following complications from a serious fall two weeks ago on campus. Hartford was found outside the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house early in the morning on January 10th. He suffered multiple skull and facial fractures, severe brain trauma, a broken wrist and optical nerve damage consistent with a fall from 15-20 feet. Hartford, who was a former member of the fraternity, attended an event at the house that evening. Investigators believe he either fell from a window or was climbing up to get in the window. They are classifying it as a tragic accident. "We are deeply saddened by Tom's tragic death, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this very difficult time," said Stephen J. MacCarthy, vice president for university communications. Tom had a bright future and was a bright student, attending Penn on a full scholarship and having perfect SAT scores. He was majoring in cognitive science.

The notorious “Basement of Horrors” case in Philadelphia has been taken over by the federal courts. Five people have been indicted on 196 counts of hate crimes, kidnapping, sex trafficking and the addition of two counts of murder by a federal grand jury. Authorities allege that two of the victims of the extortion ring died as a direct result of their treatment from the defendants warranting murder charges. One of those deaths occurred in Virginia, the other here in Philadelphia. The entire racketeering conspiracy, led by Linda Weston, specifically targeted the mentally ill because they could receive government benefits. They would kidnap their victims, hold them in basements, starve them, sometimes force them into prostitution and treat them as subhuman slaves all the while collecting their disability checks for themselves. This is the first time hate crimes are being pursued for crimes against the mentally disabled. Weston could see the death penalty, her co-defendants face life in prison. The state charges stemming from the discovery of malnourished people held in a Tacony basement will be dismissed in favor of the federal charges.

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