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A jury found former Virginia Tech football player Isimemen Etute, 19, not guilty in the killing of Jerry Smith, a 40-year-old gay man who presented himself as a 21-year-old physician named Angie Renee on Tinder.
Etute and Smith linked up last year on hook-up app Tinder. Smith reportedly performed oral sex on Etute, then 18 years old, during their first meetup. Suspicious he was misled by Smith, Etute met back up a second time to try to find out Smith’s sex. After identifying Smith was indeed male, Etute repeatedly struck him in what would be a fatal beating.
“Who is the real victim here?” defense attorney Jimmy Turk said through tears during closing arguments on Friday, Roanoke.com reported. “This was a wicked sexual ruse.”
Turk told the jury Smith was a “deceitful and dishonest man” who “defrauded young men for his own sexual gratification.”
Etute said he was acting in self-defense when he beat Smith, claiming he thought Smith was reaching for a gun after the man’s true gender was revealed.
Authorities said there was a knife found under a mattress, but Smith did not have a gun.
“This is one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had as a lawyer,” Turk said following the verdict.
The defense attorney was reportedly pacing the halls as the jury deliberated for some three hours.
“I’m not in shock because it’s the right verdict, but always wondering and worrying about whether you convinced 12 people,” Turk said. “That’s always nerve-wracking. I’m just thankful for this jury. It is the right decision and right now I’m still just overwhelmed.”
When the verdict was read in court, Etute’s parents were visibly relieved; David Etute reportedly “collapsed in his seat while his wife Nichelle sobbed.” Etute was in tears too, bear-hugging his lawyer.
Following the incident last year, a spokesperson for Smith’s family who requested to remain anonymous said they were “at a loss at everything that’s going on.”
“There are horrible stories out there,” the person said. “At the end of the day, no matter what he did or didn’t do, nobody deserves what he got. Whatever happened gives nobody the right to react that way. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t.”
“He was so proud. Everybody knew he was a gay man. He did not like women. He was very proud of who he was,” the spokesperson recalled.
“Regardless of what he did, he did not deserve this,” the person said of Smith. “He was maybe 112 pounds soaking wet. He wasn’t a threat to nobody. He wasn’t a threat to a fly. He wasn’t a dangerous person. Nobody has a right to take someone’s life. Whatever happened should not have happened.”