AP

Former Virginia Tech player acquitted in 2021 beating death

May 27, 2022, 3:00 PM | Updated: May 28, 2022, 9:21 am

Former Virginia Tech football player Jordan Brunson testifies during  Isimemen David Etute's trial ...

Former Virginia Tech football player Jordan Brunson testifies during Isimemen David Etute's trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Christiansburg, Va., Friday May 27 2022. Etute is accused of fatally beating Jerry Smith, 40 in May 2021, a man he met on an online dating site and had initially believed to be a woman. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP)

(Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP)

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va (AP) — A jury on Friday acquitted a former Virginia Tech football player who had been accused of fatally beating a man he says he initially believed from a Tinder match to be a woman.

Former player Isimemen Etute, 19, was found not guilty of a charge of second-degree murder in the 2021 death of Jerry Smith, 40, of Blacksburg. The jury deliberated for approximately three hours before returning its verdict around 6:30 p.m., The Roanoke Times reported.

Immediately after the verdict was announced, Smith’s family quickly left the courtroom. The prosecuting attorney, Montgomery County Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Patrick Jensen, declined comment and referred questions to his boss, Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt.

The jury began deliberations after closing arguments ended shortly before 3 p.m.

Prosecutors had earlier told the jury that Etute, then 18, became enraged and fatally beat Smith when he discovered Smith was a man. One of the prosecutors said at closing arguments Friday that Etute gave different versions of events to police and the jury, and that the charge may have been enough for him to change his testimony.

“He has a tremendous amount riding on this trial,” Jensen had said during his closing argument hours earlier Friday, The Roanoke Times reported.

Defense attorney Jimmy Turk told the jurors earlier Friday that the commonwealth’s evidence was circumstantial, while the defense’s evidence, which included the testimony of Etute, was direct.

Turk also said Smith was “controlling the entire environment and the entire episode.” He added that Smith had “demanded that it be dark” and had hidden a knife under his mattress “in case there was something awry.”

Turk also argued that police didn’t ask Etute essential questions about Smith’s knife or Etute’s fear while in the apartment, two questions whose answers could have shown whether Etute was afraid for his life and acting in self-defense.

In taking the stand earlier in the week, Etute had testified that he felt “violated” when he discovered that the Tinder match he believed to be a woman was actually a man.

In his testimony Thursday, Etute had testified that Smith reached for what Etute thought was a gun. Smith did not own a gun, but police reported finding a knife between the man’s mattress and box spring.

Etute said he punched Smith five times and kicked him to gain time to escape the apartment.

Jensen had maintained that Etute had not acted in self-defense. He argued that after Etute punched Smith and Smith fell to the floor, there was “no way” Smith could have reached a weapon under his mattress.

“He could never reach a gun from there,” Jensen said.

Jensen recalled the testimony of medical examiner Dr. Amy Tharp, who Jensen said testified Smith had been the victim of a “brutal beating.”

Jensen said that while Etute was wearing flip-flops at the time of the encounter, those shoes were attached to a “big person” and a “strong person.” He compared Etute, an “elite college athlete,” to Smith, who weighed 153 pounds (just under 70 kilograms).

“That’s a big disparity,” Jensen said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Colorado River settlement center of new Navajo Nation push...

Associated Press

Tribes say their future is at stake as they push for Congress to consider Colorado River settlement

Navajo officials are celebrating the signing of legislation outlining a proposed Colorado River settlement that would ensure water rights.

2 days ago

Arizona doctors California abortions...

Associated Press

Arizona doctors can come to California to perform abortions under new law signed by Gov. Newsom

Arizona doctors can temporarily come to California to perform abortions for their patients under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

3 days ago

Father convicted of first-degree murder in northern Arizona...

Associated Press

Arizona man convicted of first-degree murder in starvation death of 6-year-old son

A northern Arizona father was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday in the 2020 starvation death of his 6-year-old son.

3 days ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in a courtroom next to his lawyer Todd Blanche before the start ...

Associated Press

Trump hush money trial enters new phase after defense rests without testimony from former president

Donald Trump's hush money trial is now closer to the moment when the jury will begin deciding the former president's fate.

5 days ago

UoA student convicted of first-degree murder after killing professor...

Associated Press

Former Arizona grad student convicted of first-degree murder in 2022 shooting of professor

A former University of Arizona grad student was convicted of first-degree murder after fatally shooting a professor on campus two years ago.

5 days ago

Rudy Giuliani bankruptcy filing defamation lawsuit...

Associated Press

Ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona’s Kelli Ward plead not guilty in fake elector case

Giuliani appeared remotely for the arraignment that was held in a Phoenix courtroom. His trial will take place in October.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Former Virginia Tech player acquitted in 2021 beating death