UPDATE 11:47 a.m.: The second-degree-murder charge against suspended Virginia Tech football player Isimemen Etute was certified by a Montgomery County judge to a grand jury Thursday morning.
Etute appeared in court for a preliminary hearing on Thursday, Sept. 23 in connection with the death of 40-year-old Jerry Paul Smith of Blacksburg on May 31.
Both the prosecution and the defense spoke during Thursday’s hearing, which was attended by friends and family members of Etute and Smith.
The Commonwealth called three detectives of the Blacksburg Police Department to the testify about the homicide investigation, such as the description of the crime scene, the process of identifying the victim after he sustained such trauma to his face and neck, and the interview with Etute.
According to investigators, Etute and Smith — or rather Etute and “Angie,” the woman Smith had been posing as — matched on Tinder on April 10 and had a consensual sexual encounter that day in Smith’s apartment.
However, on May 31, police say Etute went to Smith’s apartment with two friends to determine whether Smith was a man or a woman, but the apartment was minimally lit and Smith was concealing his face. However, security cameras show that the other two people stayed outside the apartment and that Etute was the only one who went inside with Smith.
After Etute discovered that Smith was indeed a man, Etute reportedly punched him multiple times and Smith fell to the floor.
When asked if Etute stomped on Smith — as the prosecution previously alleged — the detective said that Etute told him he was stepping over Smith and accidentally stepped on him in his “slide shoes.”
After the defense asked one of the detectives whether Etute knew what happened to Smith after he left the apartment, the detective said that Etute started crying, breaking down both physically and emotionally upon hearing about Smith’s death.
The defense also revealed Thursday that a knife was found between Smith’s mattress and box spring.
During the hearing, the defense asked to drop the second-degree-murder charge and downgrade it to voluntary manslaughter, but the prosecution said there was no evidence for such a charge. In the end, the judge overruled the defense’s motion and decided that the murder charge will proceed to the grand jury.
Smith’s family friend, Rebecca Snavely, described Smith’s death as “premeditated,” saying that “because Etute plays for Tech, they’re [referencing Etute and the two friends who went to Smith’s apartment with him] going to get away with it.”
According to Snavely, Smith’s body was found in his apartment by his brother and his 13-year-old nephew.
Emotions escalated both during and after the hearing, with one of Smith’s supporters storming out of the courtroom during the proceedings. Then, after the hearing, a family friend of Smith yelled, “he did not deserve to die,” as Etute and his family were leaving.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Isimemen Etute, the former Virginia Tech football player facing a second-degree-murder charge, is due in court on Thursday following the death of a Blacksburg man in May.
This comes after gruesome details came out during Etute’s June court appearance about how Etute and the victim of the May 31 homicide — 40-year-old Jerry Paul Smith — knew each other.
Prosecutors say Etute and Smith had known each other for a short time after meeting through a dating app. However, Smith was reportedly posing as a woman named Angie.
According to prosecutors, their first encounter was back in April, at which time Smith gave Etute oral sex. The two met up again on May 31, but at that time, Etute realized Smith was a man.
The Commonwealth believes Etute became enraged, punched Smith several times in the face, and stomped on Smith with enough force to break every bone in his face.
Police found Smith’s body on June 1 after a welfare check. The medical examiner says Smith died from blunt force injuries to the head.
According to Virginia Tech, Etute was placed on interim suspension as of June 2, which affected his standing with the Hokies football team.
At his bond hearing on June 9, the judge granted Etute a $75,000 bond, which prosecutors originally appealed, but that was quickly dropped.
Under an agreement, Etute was allowed out on bond, but was set to remain under house arrest and electronic monitoring at his parents’ house in Virginia Beach, prosecutors say.
Court records say that Etute is set to appear in the Montgomery General District Court at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 23 for his preliminary hearing.