By Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Jury selection began today in the trial of a Levittown, Pa. exterminator charged with the 2013 strangulation death of a physician in her center city home, during a house call to get rid of rodents.
As the lawyer for defendant Jason Smith and prosecutors listened attentively, Judge Sandy Byrd asked the roomful of prospective jurors if any of them had heard about a murder on Naudain Street, near Graduate Hospital. One of the 60 people raised a hand.
Then, when asked about the murder on that street of a Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia doctor, more than half of them raised their hands.
As they try to seat a jury during the process known as voir dire, defense lawyer Michael Farrell expressed concerns about the pretrial publicity. He has filed a motion to suppress the confession that Smith, 36, gave to detectives.
The victim, 35-year-old pediatrician Melissa Ketunuti, had made an appointment with an exterminating company, and Smith was the subcontractor.
During his visit, police say, Smith got into an argument with Ketunuti and it quickly escalated into a physical struggle.
Assistant DA Jennifer Selber, chief of the homicide unit, and her colleague Peter Lim are prosecuting.
Opening statements and testimony are set to begin on Wednesday if both sides are able to select a jury by then.