Isimemen Etute stands at his preliminary hearing at Montgomery County Court House, Sept. 24, 2021.

A Montgomery County judge certified on Sept. 23 a charge of second-degree murder of Blacksburg resident Jerry Paul Smith against Isimemen David Etute, suspended Virginia Tech football player.

According to Detective Heather Rose-Semple, the first witness, Etute and Smith had first established contact over the dating app Tinder in April 2021. Smith, who allegedly claimed to be a woman named “Angie Renee,” offered oral sex to Etute, who agreed and met up with Smith under these pretenses for the first time on April 10, 2021. It was during their second encounter on May 31, 2021, that Etute discovered Smith’s identity and allegedly killed him in his apartment on North Main Street in Blacksburg.

As the courtroom stood, the families of both the defendant and victim entered and were seated on opposite sides of the aisle. The judge called upon three detectives as witnesses to share details of the encounter between Etute and Smith.

Rose-Semple, who works in the crime scene processing unit of the Blacksburg Police Department, said that she was called in to check on Smith at his home by his family. When she arrived, she described “bloody footwear” tracked throughout the halls and down the stairs. Smith was found on the floor beside his bed with severe trauma to the face and head and blood splattered on the wall behind him.

The second witness was Detective Mike Czernicki, who conducted part of the investigation at the scene of the crime and attended the victim’s autopsy. Czernicki said that he was able to confirm Smith’s identity upon first seeing him because of having at least four previous encounters with him through Czernicki’s work.

Detective Ryan Hite, the third witness, reiterated the facts stated by the previous two witnesses and delved into the timeline of events in more detail. The following three paragraphs are from Hite’s testimony.

According to Hite, Etute and Smith met up for the first time on April 10, 2021. The two had been communicating via Tinder direct messages, Smith presenting himself as “Angie Renee'' on his profile. On the night of April 10, Etute went to Smith’s apartment which was very dimly lit and engaged in an act of sexual nature. The following days, Etute cut off all communication with Smith, suspicious if “Angie” really was a woman.

Etute then decided to meet with “Angie” once more to determine this, Hite alleged, and the two met up on the night of May 31, 2021, in Smith’s apartment. With Smith’s apartment only illuminated by one dim light, Etute used his cell phone flashlight to make his way up the stairs to Smith’s bedroom. Smith was described to be wearing a dress and a coat. Etute told “Angie” to lay over the side of the bed to feel around and determine if she was a woman. Once Etute shined his phone’s flashlight on Smith’s face which revealed facial hair and his identity as a man, Etute punched Smith in the face five times and stomped on his head with his foot before leaving.

Hite testified that as Etute left, he claimed to hear gurgling noises coming from Smith, who was left lying unconscious on his frontside on the floor space between his wall and bed. A knife was found sandwiched between the boxspring and mattress on the side of the bed where Smith was found. Etute wiped the blood off the bottom of his shoes before meeting his two friends who were waiting outside Smith’s apartment for Etute. He did not attempt to check in on Smith the next day or call 911.

In the middle of Hite’s testimony, a member of Smith’s family left the courtroom, appearing agitated, and said, “That was full of s---.”

Jimmy Turk, Etute’s defense attorney, stated that Etute was not aware of Smith’s death until the next day when he was called in by the police to talk. When confronted by police, Etute was compliant and even said he knew what they wanted to talk about. Etute was emotionally distraught and started crying upon hearing the news of Smith’s death. Turk described Etute as quiet and soft-spoken.

Outside the courthouse, members of Smith’s family gathered, some of whom were wearing T-shirts with Smith’s face on them and text that read “#Justice4JerryPaul.” Doris May, Smith’s aunt, claimed that Smith “wouldn’t hurt a flea” and that he was always “open about being gay.” This fact was reiterated by another one of Smith’s family members, Rebecca Snavely, who was appalled that Smith’s 13-year-old nephew and Smith’s brother were the first to find Smith after his death. Etute’s family exited out the back of the courthouse and declined to comment. Turk also refused to comment.

The charge for second-degree murder will now go to a Montgomery County grand jury to decide if Etute will be indicted.

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