Former Virginia Tech LB Isimemen Etute Found Not Guilty of Murder

Erin WalshMay 28, 2022

Former Virginia Tech football player Isimemen David Etute looks on during his trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Christiansburg, Va., Friday May 27 2022. Etute is accused of fatally beating Jerry Smith, 40 in May 2021, a man he met on an online dating site and had initially believed to be a woman. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP)
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP

A Montgomery County Circuit Court found former Virginia Tech linebacker Isimemen Etute not guilty in the May 2021 beating death of Blacksburg resident Jerry Smith, according to ESPN's David M. Hale and Tonya Simpson.

Smith and Etute initially met in April 2021 on the dating app Tinder.

According to testimony, Smith, who was an out gay man, presented himself on the app as a 21-year-old woman named Angie Renee. Etute, who thought he was meeting a woman, met Smith at his apartment on April 10. 

One of Etute's teammates, who went to Smith's apartment with him, testified that Smith hid his real identity during their encounter. Etute also testified that he received oral sex from Smith, in addition to a $50 gift, though he said he still believed Smith to be a woman. 

In May 2021, Etute and a few of his teammates returned to Smith's apartment to determine if he was who he said he was—Angie Renee, a 21-year-old woman. While his teammates waited outside, Etute determined Smith was not a woman and confronted him. 

During the confrontation, Etute testified that he believed Smith was reaching for a weapon under his bed, so he began hitting him in self-defense. When police later searched the apartment, they found a knife under Smith's mattress.

That said, Etute testified that he never saw the knife nor did he tell police in his initial June 2021 interview that he thought his life was in danger. 

Etute testified that he stomped on Smith's face as he was leaving but Smith was still breathing when he left. Security footage showed that Etute spent three minutes in Smith's apartment.

As a result of the attack, Smith ended up with nearly all of his facial bones broken, missing teeth fragments and suffered brain bleeding, according to the autopsy report. 

After the trial concluded, Etute's lawyer said that his client has "earned the right to go back to school and further his academic and sports career," adding, "I think the school that ends up taking him is going to get probably a lot wiser and a much smarter and an exceptional athlete."

Etute committed to Virginia Tech in July 2020 as a three-star prospect and the 39th overall ranked player in the 2021 class out of Virginia, per 247Sports Composite Rankings. He also had offers from Boston College and Liberty, among others.