BLACKSBURG, Va. – A former Virginia Tech football player accused of murder appeared in court on Thursday.
Isimemen Etute is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of 40-year-old Jerry Smith back on May 31.
Emotions escalated both during the hearing inside the Montgomery County Courthouse and afterward.
Smith’s family and friends wore shirts with his picture that read ‘JusticeforJerryPaul.’ One of Smith’s family friends stormed out during the hearing.
The Commonwealth called three witnesses to the stand, all members of the law enforcement community.
Police said that during their investigation and in conversations with Etute, they learned that Etute and Smith matched on Tinder on April 10 and that Smith had been posing as a woman named ‘Angie.’ The two had a sexual encounter that day.
In court Thursday, Etute’s defense attorney James Turk said that ‘after performing oral sex, Angie paid [Etute] $50.”
After that encounter, one witness said that Etute’s friends questioned if Angie was who she claimed she was.
Police said that Angie later reached back out to Etute asking if he could put in a good word with one of Etute’s friends. The witness said that Etute’s friend also reached out to him, asking if Angie was legitimate.
Then on May 31, police said Etute went to Smith’s apartment to have another sexual encounter and also determine if Angie was a man or a woman.
Police testified that Etute told them it was very dark in the apartment and that Angie was trying to conceal her face. She then offered to perform oral sex on Etute, but he declined. Etute told police he positioned himself on the bed in the apartment to be able to feel if Angie was a man or woman. The witness said that Etute then turned on his cellphone’s light, which lit up Angie’s face and revealed that Angie was a man with facial hair and was wearing glasses.
That’s when Etute allegedly punched Smith in the face five times, stomped on his face once, then left the apartment without calling 911.
In court, the defense revealed that police found a knife between Smith’s box spring and mattress. Turk also said that when Etute spoke to police after the incident, he didn’t know that Smith had died.
“There was a point in time during the interview that you did in fact tell [Etute] that Jerry Smith had died, didn’t you?” asked Turk.
“Yes sir,” Replied the witness.
“Is it fair to say that Mr. Etute started crying?” asked Turk.
“Yes sir, he did,” said the witness.
After the hearing, as Etute and his family headed to their cars, one of Smith’s family friends yelled, “He did not deserve this. He did not deserve to die.”
The defense asked the judge to strike out the second-degree murder charge and downgrade it to voluntary manslaughter, but that motion was overruled.
Turk, who didn’t want to talk on-camera, told 10 News that it’s a tough case because it’s so emotionally charged and it’s sad all around.
Smith’s aunt, Doris May, said that Smith wouldn’t hurt a flea, was never afraid to say he was gay and doesn’t believe that he pretended to be a woman.
May also said she feels bad for Etute’s family, but she wants justice.
“I feel sorry for them, but I want him put in jail for the rest of his life. We ain’t gonna have Jerry back. Why should they have him?” said May.