Developer Ori Feibush half believed he might run into Melissa Ketunuti's killer on the street Wednesday afternoon.
Feibush, who owns the OCF Coffee House at 18th and South streets, was one of just a few people who had seen the face of the man who, late Monday morning, allegedly killed Ketunuti, a doctor at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who lived around the corner from his shop.
After days of poring through surveillance video from his coffee shop and other cameras he owns in the area, Feibush realized around 3 p.m. Wednesday that he had clear video of Jason Smith, a 36-year-old exterminator who was taken into custody for Ketunuti's murder at his Bucks County home Wednesday night.
"We had crystal clear video of him walking right past the coffee shop and looking at the cameras," Feibush told the Philadelphia Daily News in an exclusive interview Thursday. "I was exceptionally uncomfortable until they caught the guy because it looked like anybody who walks by the shop."
At a news conference Thursday, police said that Ketunuti had called an exterminator to deal with a rodent problem at her Center City house and that the company had subcontracted the job to Smith.
While at her house on Monday, Smith got into an argument with Ketunuti and hit her, knocking her to the ground, said Homicide Capt. James Clark. He then tied her hands and feet, strangled her and set her on fire in an attempt to hide the evidence, Clark said. There were no signs of sexual assault.
Smith gave a statement to police when he was taken into custody Wednesday night, according to Clark. He was charged Thursday with murder, abuse of a corpse, arson and related offenses.
Clark said surveillance video from several stores in the area was crucial in helping to lead detectives to Smith.
The coffee shop owned by Feibush was one of those businesses.
Feibush, owner of OCF Realty, made national headlines in September when the Daily News reported that the city was threatening to sue him after he spent more than $20,000 removing more than 40 tons of debris from a vacant Point Breeze lot owned by the city. No lawsuit was filed.
Feibush said that he received a text message from a detective shortly after Ketunuti's killing, and that he and police began poring through his surveillance footage.
"At the time, it's a needle in a haystack looking for him," Feibush said. "What does a criminal look like?"
After a photo of Ketunuti was available, Feibush said, he and police were able to figure out when she walked by his shop on her way home that day. He said Smith can be seen walking about 20 paces behind Ketunuti on the way to her house.
Feibush said Smith was in civilian clothes and wearing a North Face jacket and a hat.
"Probably 200 people saw him walking and no one would have suspected anything was amiss," he said. "It was 11 a.m. on a holiday. It was broad daylight and nice weather."
Feibush said Smith looked very different in subsequent footage, after he left Ketunuti's house.
"When he came back he had gloves on, his hat was off and his jacket was in his arms," he said. "Coming back he walks directly under the camera and that's when we realized, 'Wow.' We had this guy on camera."
According to Feibush, Smith was carrying other items in his arms, but he declined to detail what they were.
Feibush said he ran and grabbed homicide detectives who were right outside his coffee shop.
"They were in absolute shock as well," he said. "There was the guy, walking in broad daylight with no hat on, not hiding his appearance in front of a very powerful surveillance camera."
Feibush said that if his camera had been aimed in a different angle, or if Smith had walked across the street, his image might not have been captured so clearly.
"I honestly believe this guy would still be on the loose for a long time, if not forever, without video surveillance," Feibush said.
Feibush said "a weird, eerie feeling" has settled over the "exceptionally quiet" neighborhood since the slaying, and he's relieved that Ketunuti's alleged killer has been captured.
"The victim is somebody who has dedicated her life to helping other people," Feibush said. "While any murder is terrible, it's worse when it's somebody who's dedicated her life to others.