Road-rage incident in accused killer’s recent past

Posted: January 29, 2013

By Allison Steele

Jason Smith, the 36-year-old exterminator charged in the murder of Center City pediatrician Melissa Ketunuti, pleaded guilty last year to exposing himself to someone on I-95 n a fit of road rage, court records show.

Smith, who was arrested last week for allegedly strangling Ketunuti and setting her body on fire in the basement of her home, received the citation in Bensalem for disorderly conduct on March 16. The circumstances were not clear, but Smith, of Levittown, paid $289 in fines, according to court papers.

Last week, according to police sources, Smith told investigators that he "just snapped" during an argument with Ketunuti, who hired him to get rid of rodents in her home.

Smith, who was held without bail Monday, also told police he is addicted to prescription medications, including painkillers, sources said. His record includes a 2004 arrest for driving while under the influence, but he appears to have no significant criminal history.

Smith served in the Army for three months in 1998, training as a private in the 143rd Ordinance Battalion at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, a base where the Army designs and tests weapons. From May to August 1998 Smith trained as a Track Vehicle Mechanic, responsible for the maintenance and repair of vehicles such as tanks.

Mark Edwards, Chief of Media Relations for the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, said Smith left the service shortly after completing his training. Marks would not say why Smith left after just three months.

Smith has struggled with financial problems. In 2002, weeks after the birth of his son, the mother petitioned for child support, according to Bucks County court filings.

At the time Smith worked at Allied Building products in Levittown, and his wages were garnished. About two and a half years later, Smith got an injury that rendered him unable to work for a period of time, and in 2011, he received unemployment benefits.

Contact staff writer Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com

Staff writers Mike Newall and Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman contributed to this story.

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