Isi Etute, ex-Virginia Tech participant, observed not guilty of 2nd-degree murder

(Written content warning: This tale contains graphic details. The content material could be difficult to study and emotionally upsetting.)

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. — A jury discovered former Virginia Tech soccer player Isimemen “Isi” Etute not guilty of second-diploma murder Friday in the demise of Blacksburg resident Jerry Paul Smith.

The verdict was rendered just after a three-working day demo in Montgomery County Circuit Court docket that happened nearly a yr immediately after the beating demise of Smith, 40, who posed as a female named “Angie Renee” and matched with Etute on Tinder. Etute’s attorneys argued self-protection immediately after an altercation amongst the two in Smith’s apartment when he was uncovered to be a guy.

When the verdict was read through, Etute’s relatives cheered loudly in the courtroom prior to settling down. Etute was in tears, as was his attorney, Jimmy Turk. The two embraced right after the jury still left the courtroom.

“All I’ll say is I’m extremely content and I do think with 100 percent honesty, I do assume that it is the suitable verdict,” stated Turk, who spoke to reporters outdoors of the courthouse while Etute and his loved ones still left as a result of yet another exit without having comment. “I do. And I’m satisfied Isi will not be wearing an ankle bracelet anymore.”

Smith’s relatives abruptly still left the courthouse just after the verdict was browse without having remark. Chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney Patrick Jensen did not remark and referred any inquires to commonwealth’s lawyer Mary Pettitt.

The jury returned the unanimous verdict all-around 6:30 p.m., a few and a half hrs after beginning deliberations. They ended up instructed to figure out if Etute’s situation warranted a second-degree murder conviction, while they could have returned a verdict on a lesser demand of voluntary manslaughter if they determined Etute acted without having malice.

A 2nd-degree murder conviction carries a penalty of 5 to 40 yrs in prison. Voluntary manslaughter could have carried a sentence from just one to 10 many years.

The jury sought clarification from the judge about 5:10 p.m., inquiring a problem about the definition of “desire for peace” that was in relation to an instruction with regards to self-defense. Eighty minutes afterwards, they arrived again with an acquittal.

Etute and Smith had an original sexual experience in April 2021 in Smith’s downtown Blacksburg apartment through which he, presenting as Angie, carried out oral sex on Etute, who was a freshman linebacker at the time. Soon after identifying upon a next assembly with Angie on May 31 last 12 months that it was not a lady but Smith, a guy, Etute claimed he struck Smith several moments and kicked him as he remaining Smith’s apartment.

On questioning from Jensen, forensic pathology specialist Dr. Amy Tharp explained a brutal beating that remaining practically each bone in Smith’s encounter broken, his brain swollen and enamel knocked out. Jensen observed the dimension change between Etute, who is 6 ft 2 ½ and around 200 lbs, and the 153-pound Smith.

“Only two folks know what took place in that area and one particular of them is dead,” Jensen reported in the course of his closing argument.

Turk argued that the situation arrived down to 5 to 7 seconds, with Etute acting in self-defense. Etute testified that following he identified Smith was a guy, Smith reached for something around his mattress. Although Etute did not see everything in the darkened bed room, a knife was afterwards identified by law enforcement beneath the mattress where by Smith was initially sitting down.

Turk’s closing assertion identified as into problem Smith’s character, calling him “evil” and “deceitful” for posing as a woman on Tinder and “luring” youthful guys to his condominium. He known as Smith a “sexual predator” who dedicated assault on Etute and argued that Smith’s demise was the “result of a deliberate, wicked, sexual ruse.”

“I’m positive (Smith’s relatives is) heading by means of a whole lot of ache now and I do really feel horrible what they have been uncovered to as effectively,” Turk stated afterward. “I’m not going to say that they never have a single of the family members to glance to for fault, as I told the jury which is all of it. There’s one individual that could have prevented all of this. There is just one individual that initiated it all, there is certainly one individual that managed every single single little bit of it, and one person that uncovered young people today to this sexual predator nature, that is just completely wrong. That was just an terrible matter to expose these young males much too.”

Jensen asked the jury to take into consideration the inconsistencies in Etute’s statements. Etute did not mention to police all through a June 2 interrogation that he feared for his lifetime or saw Smith achieving for anything. The initially mention of that was to a teammate, Jordan Brunson, who testified that, two times soon after Etute was unveiled from jail, Etute explained to him Smith was achieving for anything.

Etute, 19, was arrested and billed with next-diploma murder June 2 past yr immediately after police questioned him about the May well 31 face with Smith, who claimed on the relationship application to be a 21-yr-previous unexpected emergency area doctor for Carilion Clinic and a Virginia Tech grad. The Tinder profile had a image of a girl who was not Smith.

During the April 10, 2021, face, the condominium was darkish and Smith wore a hoodie to conceal his id. Etute testified that the come across still left him bewildered, and discussions with close friends led him to query no matter if the human being he achieved was a woman.

Immediately after blocking Angie on Tinder for some time, Etute unblocked her and later on established up an additional conference at Smith’s condominium right after a Virginia Tech teammate, Jalen Hampton, matched with Angie Renee on Tinder on May perhaps 31.

Etute and Brunson satisfied up with Hampton to go to Angie’s apartment. They testified that their strategy was for Etute to go in and find out if Angie was a person or a female. If it was a gentleman, he planned to run out.

When they arrived, only Etute went into the condominium, video clip surveillance confirmed, with Hampton around the doorway and Brunson farther down the hallway. Smith, who introduced as Angie and was dressed in a blue hoodie to conceal his confront, led Etute upstairs to the bed room and sat on the still left side of the mattress. Etute, who had the flashlight of his cell telephone on in his pocket, had Smith bend in excess of on the mattress.

Etute pulled again the hoodie back again shined the flashlight on the person’s confront, revealing it to be Smith, a male. Etute said he saw shorter hair, glasses and some facial hair.

Etute testified that Smith smiled and attained out toward his crotch. Etute claimed he backhanded Smith’s hand away, right after which Smith swatted at him with his right hand and missed. As Smith adopted by way of to the ground, Etute testified he observed him access towards one thing.

Etute mentioned he punched Smith a couple of moments, knocking him to the ground. At the time Smith was on the floor, Etute punched him two far more moments to knock him on his again. He then punched him a single much more time, then kicked or stomped him with his flip-flops.

Etute mentioned he kicked Smith when in the confront as he left, even though prosecution witness Mike Czernicki, a bloodstain assessment professional for the Blacksburg law enforcement division, said the blood spatter indicated Etute kicked Smith two times in the facial area — at the time to transfer the blood from Smith’s facial area to Etute’s flip-flop and the moment additional for the sandal to depart a bloodstained sandal mark on Smith’s face.

Etute mentioned he listened to Smith breathing as he still left the apartment, functioning out of the developing with Hampton and Brunson. He was in the apartment for three minutes, in accordance to surveillance online video. Brunson testified that Etute was distraught as they left, crying and with blood on his knuckles. Hampton testified that all Etute explained was: “It was a man.”

Smith was found the future working day by police when his brother, John Wayne Smith, went to Smith’s condominium to test on him just after he acquired no answer to many phone calls. Law enforcement questioned Elder, Hampton and Brunson early the morning of June 2 in advance of picking up Etute about 7 a.m.

Etute advised law enforcement of the come upon with Smith but said he didn’t believe he harm him that badly, considering it would require him to be iced up. When the detectives explained to Etute that Smith died, Etute sat silent, then put his head in his hands and began crying. He was later billed with next-diploma murder.

Etute was at first suspended indefinitely from the Hokies football workforce pursuing his arrest and was no for a longer time a university student at Virginia Tech at the time of the trial. Turk thinks Etute deserves to get his lifestyle back again, which include his football job.

“He’s been acquitted of a criminal offense. That means he’s been observed not guilty,” Turk mentioned. “I’m not on the coaching staff, but do I believe he’s attained the suitable to go back again to university and further his educational and sport profession? Indeed I do. I imagine the faculty that ends up having him is likely to get a probably whole lot wiser and substantially smarter, and extraordinary athlete.”

(Picture: Matt Gentry / The Roanoke Occasions by way of AP, Pool)