Former Virginia Tech football player Isi Etute was found not guilty of second-degree murder Friday in the 2021 death of Blacksburg native Jerry Paul Smith at the Montgomery County Court in Christiansburg, Virginia.
On May 31, 2021, Etute went to Smith’s Blacksburg apartment after meeting him on the dating app Tinder. However, Etute believed he was meeting a woman named “Angie Renee.” Etute had been to Smith’s apartment in April for oral sex. Etute had returned on May 31, and the prosecution alleged that once Etute discovered Smith was a man, he beat him to death.
Etute was represented by defense attorney Jimmy Turk, who argued that the then-18-year-old Etute acted in self-defense after seeing Smith reach for something toward, or under, his bed, where police later found a knife.
Turk made an argument of self-defense, due to the knife between the mattress and bedsprings and Etute's statement that Smith was reaching for something. Jensen countered with Etute's excessive force went beyond defense, punching Smith 3 times on the ground and kicking him twice.— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) May 27, 2022
Former Virginia Tech running back Jordan Brunson, one of two players who accompanied Etute to the apartment, testified that Etute told him on June 11 of last year that he thought Smith was reaching for something.
The timeline is key, since that's when the knife between the mattress and bedsprings would be known to anyone outside of the detectives and police. Brunson testified Etute telling him he thought Smith was reaching for something on June 11.— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) May 27, 2022
According to testimony, Smith, posing as “Angie Renee,” said he needed to keep his identity a secret because “she had been with ‘one of the Virginia Tech coaches,’” per Michael Niziolek of The Roanoke Times.
Here are some of Niziolek’s tweets from the trial.
Angie was actually the victim, 40 year old Jerry Paul Smith, who created Tinder profiles that said he was a 21 year old emergency room physician that worked for the Carilion Clinic, which was another reason she said she wanted to protect her identity— michaelniziolek (@michaelniziolek) May 27, 2022
Etute signed with Virginia Tech in Dec. 2020 and was an early enrollee in VT’s 2021 recruiting class. A three-star linebacker, Etute played his high school football at Frank W. Cox High School in Virginia Beach.
Etute faced anywhere from five to 40 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. Montgomery County Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Patrick Jensen told the jury that to convict Etute of second-degree murder, they would need to determine that Etute acted with malice.
Not only was Etute found not guilty of second-degree murder, but the jury could also have reduced the charge to voluntary manslaughter but found Etute not guilty on either charge.