CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — The murder trial for the former Virginia Tech football player, Isimemen Etute — who is charged in connection with a Blacksburg man’s death last year — will begin on Wednesday.
June 1, 2021
Police say Etute — who was a linebacker with the Virginia Tech Hokies — was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of 40-year-old Jerry Smith of Blacksburg. Police found Smith at 119 North Main Street when they responded to a welfare check on Wednesday, June 1, 2021.
Virginia Tech placed Etute on interim suspension immediately after the incident was reported.
June 3, 2021
The former Virginia Tech football player made a virtual appearance at the Montgomery County District Court on Thursday, June 3, 2021.
During the hearing, court documents showed the incident happened on Monday, May 31, 2021. That was the same day that Etute was given a speeding ticket in Radford — where he was charged with going 20 miles per hour over the speed limit and failing to stop when entering the highway.
His hearing ended with a judge appointing Etute an attorney and scheduled his next court appearance for Sept. 23, 2021.
June 4, 2021
On Friday, June 4, 2021 the medical examiner released the cause of death for Smith, which was blunt force injuries to the head, and ruled his death as a homicide.
An investigation revealed that Smith and Etute were “acquaintances.”
June 9, 2021
A judge granted a bond to Etute under a new agreement on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Under the agreement, Etute was allowed to be at his parent’s house under house arrest and electronic monitoring.
A judge also granted Etute a $75,000 bond, which prosecutors originally appealed, but that was dropped Wednesday afternoon.
Sept. 23, 2021
Etute appeared in court for a preliminary hearing on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021. Family and friends of Etute and Smith were present during the hearing where both the prosecution and defense spoke.
Both sides heard testimony about the homicide investigation from three detectives of the Blacksburg Police Department. They spoke about the crime scene, the process of identifying the victim after he sustained such trauma to his face and neck, and the interview with Etute.
More details were revealed about how Smith and Etute knew each other. The investigation showed Etute and Smith — or rather Etute and “Angie Renee,” the woman Smith had been posing as — matched on Tinder on April 10, 2021 and had a consensual sexual encounter that day in Smith’s apartment.
The hearing ended with the defense asking for the second-degree murder charge to be downgraded to voluntary manslaughter. However, a judge overruled the defense’s motion and said that the murder charge will proceed to the grand jury.
Oct. 26, 2021
The case went to a grand jury on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, in Montgomery Circuit Court. The jury returned a true bill indicting Etute for a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the homicide of Smith.
The next grand jury meeting is set for Nov. 18, 2021.
Nov. 18, 2021
Then on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, during the next grand jury meeting, dates were set for a 2022 jury trial for Etute. It was determined that his trial would begin on May 25, 2022.
March 30, 2022
FBI agents assigned to the Roanoke area revealed newly unsealed information in the case on Wednesday, March 30, 2022. The court documents revealed three Virginia Tech football players were the subject of a potential hate crime investigation in connection with the murder charge against Etute from 2021.
During the FBI investigation, they requested data from Etute’s cell phone, his Tinder account, and the cell phones from three other Virginia Tech football players regarding violations of federal Hate Crime Acts.
The records also revealed Etute admitted to hitting Smith five times, even after he was on the ground, and kicking him once in the face.
May 6, 2022
Ahead of the May 25, 2022 trial, a judge heard several motions in a Montgomery County courtroom on Thursday, May 6, 2022.
A judge considered several items that will or will not be allowed at trial, one piece of the information pertained to Smith reaching for a knife on the day he was attacked. The Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney also requested that Smith’s prior criminal history or character be excluded from the trial. 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.
A judge made no decision during the motion hearing but said he would take it under advisement until Etute is arraigned on May 19, 2022.
May 19, 2022
On Thursday, May 19, 2022 during an arraignment hearing the defense introduced two new motions before the trial starts.
The first motion asked for some potential witnesses to remain anonymous. The defense stated it could pose a risk of physical retaliation or mental harm against them.
The other motion was to consider a law called the “gay panic defense,” which was passed by the General Assembly in 2021. This law prohibits the use of a person’s perceived or actual gender identity or sexual orientation as a defense in court for the assault or murder of an LGBTQ person.
However, a judge didn’t make a decision and instead, both sides were to meet before the trial to iron out these new motions on the table.
May 23, 2022
There was a final motion hearing that took place on Monday, May 23, 2022, before the start of Etute’s trial. A Montgomery County judge denied the request for anonymous witnesses, but the defense said they wanted to call witnesses who reportedly had similar encounters with Smith or “Angie Renee.”
However, the prosecution stated there has never been anonymous testimony for a criminal trial in Virginia. They also added that anonymous witnesses would not allow for a fair and impartial trial, especially since Smith would not be able to defend himself.
Meanwhile, the decision on the motion regarding the “gay panic defense” was put on hold.
WFXR News will be in the courtroom on Wednesday, May 25, and will bring you the latest from the trial as it gets underway at 9 a.m.