Former Virginia Tech football player Isimemen Etute was acquitted on Friday for murdering a man he misidentified for a woman during a devastating Tinder date.
A jury acquitted Etute, 19, of second-degree murder charges for the death of Jerry Smith, 40, in 2021, finding that Etute acted in self-defense when Smith appeared to reach for an object near his bed, where police eventually revealed was a knife.
“I think he’s earned the right to go back to school and further his academic and sports career,” Etute’s lawyer, James Turk, said after the ruling, per ESPN.
“I think the school that ends up taking him is going to get probably a lot wiser and a much smarter and an exceptional athlete.”
Etute allegedly went ballistic on Smith after learning he was a man, having assumed his Tinder date would be a woman.
According to the New York Post, the fact that Etute weighed over 50 pounds more than Smith cast some doubt on the idea that Smith was reaching for a weapon because Smith did not pose a physical danger to Etute.
Etute and Smith met on Tinder in April 2021, court records show. Smith posed as “Angie Renee” and the two met up on April 10.
He left the meeting because Smith hid his face and kept the room dark, but he later returned and did receive oral sex and a $50 gift.
Etute’s teammate visited Smith’s apartment on May 31 but left feeling uncomfortable. Etute and two teammates returned to Smith’s apartment to determine his gender, reports said.
After Etute “felt around” to evaluate Smith’s gender, Smith fondled him, prompting a slap from Etute, he testified. Etute hit Smith again because he thought he was reaching for a gun, he testified. Before leaving, he admitted that he stomped on Smith’s face.
According to the reports, Etute admitted that he did not view the knife at the moment, but law enforcement officers later found it under the mattress. A medical examiner determined that the former Virginia Tech student fractured nearly every bone in Smith’s face and that he did suffer brain bleeding.
Last year, Etute was suspended from Virginia Tech and the football team after charges were brought against him. His attorney argued the incident should serve as a cautionary tale for users of dating apps like Tinder.
“It should be an eye-opener not just for college athletes, but any young people using these social media platforms,” he said. “They can be extremely useful, but they can be extremely dangerous.”