A jury has acquitted a former Virginia Tech football player who allegedly beat a man to death after he discovered that his Tinder date wasn’t a woman as he had been led to believe at the time when he made the hook-up.
Nineteen-year-old Isimemen Etute who faced decades behind bars if convicted in the 2021 killing of Jerry Smith – a 40-year-old homosexual male who pretended to be a female in order to perform oral sex on the younger man – walked out of Montgomery County Circuit Court with a new lease on life after he was found not guilty by jurors on Friday.
The player believed that the “Angie” whom he met on the dating app during what has been described as a “catfishing” incident went to Smith’s apartment for oral sex, setting in motion the chain of events that would end with the brutal beating of the Blacksburg restaurant worker.
“Etute told police Smith was hiding his face during the intercourse, and paid him $50 at the end,” according to the Daily Mail which reported that “the athlete also said he stopped messaging Smith after the interaction because he wasn’t sure ‘Angie’ was telling the truth about their identity.”
Then a month later, Smith invited him over and asked him to bring some friends leading to Etute’s return to the apartment to confirm his Tinder date’s true gender, a visit that resulted in the bludgeoning and stomping of “Angie” who was left “bubbling and gurgling” when Etute left the premises.
“In his testimony Thursday, Etute had testified that Smith reached for what Etute thought was a gun. Smith did not own a gun, but police reported finding a knife between the man’s mattress and box spring,” the Daily Mail reported.
According to the Roanoke Times, the autopsy showed that “all the bones in Blacksburg resident Jerry Paul Smith’s face were broken, his teeth were missing and he had multiple cranial fractures. The medical examiner’s office had previously revealed that Smith had died from blunt force trauma to the head.”
Etute, who was a freshman at the time of the fatal incident was arrested and subsequently indicted by a grand jury last fall and faced a charge of second-degree murder carrying a sentence of 5 to 40 years and could have been convicted of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, but the jurors found the defense’s case that Etute acted in self-defense to be persuasive enough to find him not guilty of all charges.
The jury returned with their verdict after three hours of deliberation, sparing the ex-linebacker from prison.
(Video: YouTube/WSLS 10)
Etute’s attorney Jimmy Turk hailed the jury’s verdict, saying, “This is one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had as a lawyer.”
“Turk, who has been practicing law for 36 years and tried more than 70 murder cases, nervously paced the hallways while the jury deliberated for more than three hours,” according to the Roanoke Times.
“I’m not in shock because it’s the right verdict, but always wondering and worrying about whether you convinced 12 people,” he said. “That’s always nerve-wracking. I’m just thankful for this jury. It is the right decision and right now I’m still just overwhelmed.”
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