A man who was allegedly beaten to death by Virginia Tech football player Isimemen Etute had identified himself as a woman on the Tinder dating app.
Etute, 18, was charged with second-degree murder in the fatal beating of Jerry Smith, 40.
Police say Etute and Smith had matched on the dating site Tinder, but Smith identified as a woman named “Angie” on the app.
Smith allegedly used a woman’s picture in his profile and asked men to wear a blindfold when they arrived at his apartment.
Etute reportedly went to Smith’s apartment on April 10, where “Angie” performed oral sex on him.
Etute’s attorney, Jimmy Turk, said his client didn’t realize Smith was a man until he returned to the apartment for a second sexual encounter on May 31.
Etute told police he punched Smith repeatedly in the face and continued punching and stomping the victim after he fell to the floor. He said he heard Smith “bubbling and gurgling” and left the apartment without calling the police or medics.
Smith’s body was found in his Blacksburg, Va. apartment on June 1. A coroner determined his death was caused by blunt force trauma to the head and face. The coroner’s report noted Smith lost multiple teeth, had multiple skull fractures and every bone in his face was fractured.
Etute, who was suspended from Virginia Tech and the football team, was released on $75,000 bond at his bond hearing on Wednesday. He is allowed to stay with family in Virginia Beach on house arrest and electronic monitoring until his trial in September.
Multiple Virginia Tech players — most of them wearing Virginia Tech gear — were in attendance to support Etute at the packed bond hearing.
There are reports that Smith was fired from Blacksburg area bars for sexually harassing young men.
Turk implied that he might use a gay panic defense, which is banned in Virginia and 10 other states. The gay panic ban becomes effective in Virginia on July 1.
“I’m not saying what happened was acceptable, but this was more than someone just showing up to an apartment and punching someone,” Turk told the judge.
“Nobody deserves to die, but I don’t mind saying, don’t pretend you are something that you are not. Don’t target or lure anyone under that perception. That’s just wrong.”
Turk struggled to fight back tears when he asked for bond for his client.
“I’ve tried more than 100 murder cases in my lifetime, and normally I don’t even ask for bail,” Turk said with his voice quivering. “If there’s ever been a time for someone to be considered for bail, this is it.”
I condemn the senseless violence that resulted in Mr. Jerry Smith’s death and I am sending hopes for healing to his friends, family and all community members who are hurting. Some are reporting he was a relative of my family; however, this is a falsehood and a distraction.
— Leslie Hager-Smith (@BlaxburgMayor) June 3, 2021