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Former Virginia Tech football player Isi Etute found not guilty of second degree murder

Isi Etute is cleared of all charges.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Virginia Tech Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

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.

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.