CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — There were tense moments in a Montgomery County courtroom on Thursday as a judge heard several motions ahead of the May 25 trial for Isimemen Etute, the suspended Virginia Tech football player charged with murder in connection with a Blacksburg man’s death last year.
Police say they arrested Etute after finding the body of 40-year-old Jerry Paul Smith of Blacksburg — who died from blunt force injuries to the head — on June 1, 2021 during a welfare check.
Virginia Tech previously reported that Etute was placed on interim suspension as of June 2, 2021, which affected his standing with the Hokies football team.
According to investigators, Etute said he and Smith had a sexual encounter in Smith’s apartment after meeting on Tinder on April 10, 2021, after which Smith gave Etute $50. However, Smith was reportedly posing as a woman named “Angie” both on the dating app and during their encounter.
Court records say Etute went back to Smith’s apartment on May 31, 2021 to determine if “Angie” was a man or a woman, bringing two other Hokie players with him because he was not comfortable.
The prosecution previously accused Etute of becoming enraged after finding out “Angie” was a man, punching Smith several times in the face, and stomping on Smith with enough force to break every bone in his face.
Then, on Oct. 26, 2021, a grand jury at the Montgomery County Circuit Court returned a true bill indicting Etute for a charge of second-degree murder in connection with Smith’s death.
Several months later, during a pre-trial motions hearing on Thursday, May 5, defense attorneys argued that Smith solicited Etute for sex through social media, concealing the fact that he was a man during a sexual encounter with the player.
Etute’s attorneys contend that Smith also solicited one of Etute’s friends, who told the football player that he was suspicious “Angie” was a man before Etute went back to Smith’s apartment on May 31, 2021.
In addition, the defense emphasized claims that Smith had a knife within reach at the time of the attack, saying that crime scene photos would show that police found a knife in Smith’s mattress.
According to Etute’s attorneys, the day that Smith was attacked, he reached for the knife, but never got a hold of it. The defense says the “reach” is very important in the upcoming jury trial to show that Smith’s acts were designed.
The judge is currently considering if that information will be allowed at trial.
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth’s Attorney requested that Smith’s prior criminal history or character be excluded from the jury trial on May 25. However, the defense disagreed, saying that information may show motive and claiming that Smith had a pattern of deceiving men in an effort to obtain sex.
The judge did not make a decision on any motion Thursday, saying he will take it under advisement until Etute is arraigned on May 19.