MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. – On Thursday, Isimemen Etute took the witness stand in his own defense during day two of the trial against him. Etute, 19, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Jerry Smith, 40, on May 31, 2021.
As 10 News has reported, Smith had been presenting as a woman named “Angie Renee” on Tinder, which is how the two first connected on April 10, 2021.
During his testimony, Etute said his only reason for going back to Smith’s apartment the night Smith died was to figure out who Angie really was. Etute told the court that when he realized Angie was a man, he felt “violated” and was worried for his safety.
The day started by showing the court a 45-minute interview between Etute and Blacksburg police when they first spoke to him about the incident.
During that interview, Etute did not tell police that Angie tried to reach for anything, which is a major point in the defense’s case.
Etute told the jury that Angie kept trying to reach for something near the bed and he thought it was a gun. When police searched Smith’s apartment the night of June 1, 2021, investigators found a large, serrated kitchen knife hidden in between Smith’s mattress and box spring.
When Etute took the stand, he described his interaction with Angie the first time on April 10, 2021, as “sketchy” because the apartment was pitch black, she wouldn’t show her face, and she paid him $50 after their first sexual encounter.
Etute testified that he blocked Angie, but after discussions with his friends about their concerns over her true identity, he decided to figure out who this person really was.
Etute told the court that his plan was to go back to Angie’s apartment on May 31, feel around Angie’s body and use his cell phone’s flashlight to reveal her face. He said if Angie was a man, his plan was to run out of the apartment. He brought his two friends and former football team members Jalen Hampton and Jordan Brunson with him, but both stayed in the hallway of Smith’s apartment complex.
Hampton testified that he had matched with Angie on May 31, 2021, and went to her apartment that night. But he said he only took about a step into the apartment and said he left after about three to five minutes because he felt “uncomfortable” and was worried was being set up to be blackmailed, kidnapped, robbed or killed.
Hampton said he called Etute to ask about Angie and the two discussed concerns over her true identity. They came up with a plan to confront Angie that night.
Etute said Jalen was supposed to follow him into “Angie’s” apartment right behind Etute, but Etute said Angie told Jalen to wait outside.
However, Hampton testified that the plan all along was for Etute to go into the apartment alone.
On the witness stand, Etute described the events leading up to Smith’s death that night. He said after he realized Angie was a man, Etute said “I felt violated. I was just in shock and disbelief that someone had tricked me and lied to me.”
Etute said he kept seeing Smith reach over the bed for something. “I thought he was reaching for a gun,” said Etute. “I didn’t want to get shot.”
Etute described punching Smith on the right side of the face, and Smith then fell to the ground on the side of the bed. Etute said Smith was still reaching and “that’s when I punched him three more times.”
Adding that “everything happened so quick.”
Etute then said while he was stepping over Smith to leave the apartment “I kicked him on the way out.”
Etute’s defense lawyer, Jimmy Turk asked Etute why he kicked Smith and Etute said “to buy enough time to run out of the apartment before he could shoot me.”
Etute said he was hyperventilating and crying as he left and was running out of the apartment because “I thought he was going to shoot me.”
“I didn’t think he was seriously hurt,” said Etute. “I’ve never got into a fight in my whole life.”
Etute said he only noticed a little blood on Smith’s nose.
Etute added that he was “nervous and scared” when he went to the police department for questioning.
During the police interview, investigators told Etute that Smith was dead. Prior to that, Etute said he did not believe Smith was seriously injured.
Turk asked about Etute’s reaction when he learned of Smith’s death and he said “Honestly, I was destroyed. I would never intentionally try to harm someone, especially to the point of death. I was very upset. I broke down when they told me.”
The court heard from several more witnesses, including Hampton, Brunson, and current Virginia Tech football player Emory Da’Shawn Elder.
Elder testified that he went with Etute to Angie’s apartment on April 10 because Angie had said she would perform oral sex on both Elder and Etute. Elder said after following Angie and Etute upstairs to the bedroom, he felt scared. “It was dark and I just didn’t like the atmosphere,” said Elder. He said he then pretended to use his phone and left the apartment because “something just didn’t feel right.”
In court, Elder also said Angie told them one of the Virginia Tech football coaches had “hit” her up.
At one point during the trial, the defense asked the judge to reduce Etute’s charge from second degree murder to manslaughter, but the judge ruled that the jury could find evidence of malice needed, by Virginia law, for a charge of second degree murder.
The trial resumes Friday at 9 a.m. The defense said they plan to call three or four more witnesses.
10 News has covered this case extensively. Below are previous articles related to this case:
- Former Virginia Tech football player indicted on murder charge (Oct. 26, 2021)
- Cause of death in Blacksburg homicide ruled blunt force (June 4, 2021)