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Prosecutors wrap up case against ex-Virginia Tech football player

Prosecutors told the jury that the football player became enraged and fatally beat his Tinder date once he discovered he was a man.
Credit: AP
Isimemen Etute appears in court in Christiansburg Va. Thursday May 19 2022. Etute, a Virginia Tech freshman linebacker is charged in the fatal beating of a Tinder match. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP, Pool)

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. — Prosecutors in the murder trial of a former Virginia Tech football player rested their case Thursday after showing jurors a videotaped interrogation in which the linebacker acknowledged repeatedly hitting and kicking a Tinder match after discovering the person he knew as “Angie” was actually a man.

Isimemen Etute, 19, is charged with second-degree murder in the 2021 fatal beating of Jerry Smith, 40, of Blacksburg.

Prosecutors told the jury that Etute, then 18, became enraged and fatally beat Smith when he discovered during their second sexual encounter that Smith was a man.

Etute's lawyer, James Turk, told jurors that Etute was “lured” into a sexual encounter by a man targeting young Black males for his own sexual gratification.

During the police interrogation, Etute said that after an initial encounter with Smith in April, he decided to return to Smith’s apartment on May 31 after his friends teased him and told him he might have hooked up with a man.

Etute admitted to hitting Smith five times and kicking him as he walked out of the apartment, but he repeatedly denied going there with the intent of harming Smith. Etute said his only intent was to determine whether Smith was a man or a woman.

When the police told him Smith died from the attack, Etute sobbed and asked repeatedly if they were sure.

The Roanoke Times reports that one of the more explosive moments of the trial came Thursday when Turk asked Blacksburg police Detective Ryan Hite if Smith’s conduct during his encounters with Etute constituted sexual battery, which is defined under Virginia law as any form of sexual abuse committed against another person’s will, through the use of threats, tricks, or intimidation.

The prosecution quickly objected and asked to discuss the matter without the jury present.

Judge Mike Fleenor allowed Turk to ask Hite if he would have presented the commonwealth with details of Smith’s conduct if he had known about them as sexual battery.

“If we knew those facts, yes we would have consulted the commonwealth’s (attorney’s) office,” Hite said.

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