A few days ago in a gentrified area of downtown Philadelphia a brilliant 35 year old pediatrician, Melissa Ketunuti, who worked at our distinguished University of Pennsylvania Children's Hospital, specializing in infectious diseases of children, was murdered in her own home.
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When the woman who walks Dr. Ketunuti's six year old black part pit bull--part lab dog arrived on the morning of the murder, she found the door open and the smell of smoke. Her discovery was horrific: Dr. Ketunuti had been bound and strangled in the basement of her home, her body set afire.
With the help of security cameras from a near by hospital, photo-imaging technology and "relentless police work," (reported in the "Philadelphia Inquirer," January 25, 2013, pages 1 and 6) the pieces of this horrid reality have been knit together. There had been mice in Melissa Ketunuti's basement, and the last person in her home was the exterminator, a subcontractor for the company she contacted for help with this problem.
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Jason Smith, age 36, the subcontractor, confessed to the murder and mutilation, telling police he was "addicted to prescription medicines, including painkillers" and that he "snapped after a brief argument...over something to do with the work." According to reports, he "struck" this petite woman, "knocked her down. He (then) got on top of her and strangled her."
Full disclosure: The home where this murder took place is just a few blocks from where I raised my children, moving there when the area was far from gentrified. During three years of the period I lived in this home I was a single mom. Full further disclosure: When I read this story a few days ago, I shook. My three daughters and daughter-in-law each lived independently as graduate students and young professionals prior to their marriages. They each also, like Melissa Ketunati, would be described by mentors, colleagues, neighbors, and friends as "bright, positive, easy to get along with, ever-friendly and gracious."
As a family therapist for over 30 years, I have worked with and consulted about those where violence and lack of impulse control in word and action are problematic. I have also worked with their victims. This kind of "snap" (though thankfully not always culminating in murder) can happen for myriad reasons. Specifically, when a stranger is in a home it can happen when a sexual advance or attack is denied or resisted, when a woman surprises or confronts one in the process of stealing, or when she tells him to leave for any reason. Since some can tolerate no direction what-so-ever, especially from a woman, It can also happen if she politely tells a workman she is dissatisfied with an aspect of his work; and it can even occur if she requests that he wash his hands or clean up following his work.