CHRISTIANSBURG, Virginia — A trial began Wednesday for a former Virginia Tech football player accused of beating to death a Tinder match he originally believed was a woman.
Isimemen Etute, a former linebacker, is charged with second-degree murder in the 2021 death of 40-year-old Jerry Smith. Etute told police he visited Smith’s apartment in April 2021 after being matched with someone named “Angie” on Tinder. Prosecutors said when Etute returned on May 31, he became enraged when he found out his match was a man.
The Roanoke Times reported that during opening statements in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Jason Morgan told the jury that there was “not much to unpack in this case”. He said Eute beat Smith when he found out he was a man.
“Every bone in Jerry’s face was broken,” Morgan said.
Etute’s attorney, James Turk, told the jury the case would come down to five seconds in which the defense alleges Smith reached under his mattress for what Eute thought was a gun.
Turk described Etute as a then-18-year-old victim who was “lured” into a sexual encounter by a man targeting young black men for his own sexual gratification.
“(Smith) was a sexual predator and Isi was one of his victims,” Turk said.
Turk admitted that Eute went to Smith’s apartment on May 31 with the intention of finding out if “Angie” was male or female, but Etute told his friends before the meeting that he was going “run away” if it was a man.
Turk said the incident turned violent when Smith lunged forward and “hard grabbed Etute’s crotch” with one hand and reached for the side of the bed with the other hand.
“Isi thought he was looking for a gun,” Turk said.
While Smith did not possess a firearm, police found a knife hidden between Smith’s mattress and box spring.
West Virginia Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Amy Tharp described Smith’s injuries, saying he had multiple facial fractures and brain damage. She said Smith had no defensive wounds on his arms or hands. She also said he was likely still alive but unconscious for an indefinite amount of time after Etute left the apartment.
The trial is due to continue Thursday.