The Roanoke Times reports a jury acquitted Isimemen Etute on a second-degree murder charge for the death of 40-year-old Jerry Paul Smith. The jury reportedly deliberated for about three hours following the trial that lasted three days.
The verdict comes nearly exactly one year after Smith’s beating. On June 1, 2021, Blacksburg Police Department officers went to a residence at 119 N. Main St. for a welfare check and discovered a deceased male. Police identified Etute as a person of interest and later took him into custody.
According to Roanoke Times, Smith created a Tinder profile under the name Angie Renee and said she was a 21-year-old emergency room physician. The two reportedly met April 10, and Smith, posing as Renee, performed oral sex on Etute. Etute and two of his friends reportedly went to Smith’s apartment weeks later to confront him and confirm his gender.
Etute and Smith’s fatal encounter occurred May 31, 2021. Etute allegedly punched Smith in the face and then "stomped" on him. He reportedly continued beating Smith, then left his apartment without calling police. Most of Smith’s facial bones were broken and he suffered brain swelling and bleeding.
Etute was released on $75,000 bond, and he was required to remain under house arrest and wear an ankle monitor.
His defense attorney, Jimmy Turk, argued Etute killed Smith in self-defense. Etute testified in court he thought Smith was grabbing a gun from under a mattress, so he fought back.
Etute said during testimony about the encounter, "I felt violated. I was just in shock, in disbelief that someone tricked me and lied to me."
Prosecutor Patrick Jensen argued, "If you find this was in the heat of passion, you shouldn’t find him guilty of second-degree murder, the crime would be voluntary manslaughter, but what I’m telling you is this was not self-defense."
According to ESPN, Turk believes Etute has "earned the right to go back to school and further his academic and sports career."
After the trial, Turk said, "It should be an eye-opener not just for college athletes, but any young people using these social media platforms. They can be extremely useful, but they can be extremely dangerous."