CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. — A trial began Wednesday for a former Virginia Tech football player accused in the fatal beating of 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 he was matched with someone named “Angie” on Tinder. Prosecutors said that when Etute returned on May 31, he became enraged when he discovered his match was a man.
The Roanoke Times reported that during opening statements in Montgomery County Circuit Court Wednesday, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jason Morgan told the jury that there was “not much to unpack in this case.” He said Etute beat Smith when he discovered 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 Etute 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 males for his own sexual gratification.
“(Smith) was a sexual predator and Isi was one of his victims,” Turk said.
Turk admitted that Etute went to Smith’s apartment on May 31 with the intent of finding out whether “Angie” was a man or woman, but Etute told his friends before the encounter he was going to “run out” if it was a man.
Turk said the incident turned violent when Smith lunged forward and “violently grabbed Etute’s crotch” with one hand and reached towards the side of the bed with the other hand.
“Isi thought he was reaching for a gun,” Turk said.
While Smith didn’t own a gun, the police did find a knife hidden between Smith’s mattress and box spring.
Western Virginia assistant chief medical examiner Dr. Amy Tharp described Smith’s injuries, saying he had multiple facial fractures and brain damage. She said that Smith didn’t have defensive wounds on his arms or hands. She also said that he was likely still alive but unconscious for an unspecified amount of time after Etute left the apartment.
The trial is scheduled to continue Thursday.