Murder acquittal doesn’t end the story for former Virginia Tech football recruit

Murder acquittal doesn’t end the story for former Virginia Tech football recruit

NFL football
(© razihusin

Former Virginia Tech football recruit Isimemen Etute was acquitted of second-degree murder last week in Christiansburg, but certainly don’t expect him to be back with the Hokies.

“I think he’s earned the right to go back to school and further his academic and sports career,” his attorney, James Turk, said after the verdict. “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.”

It’s going to be problematic for whichever school might end up taking on Etute, 19, a linebacker, who was an early enrollee at Virginia Tech in the spring semester of 2021 when he connected with Jerry Smith, an openly gay man who presented himself as a 21-year-old ER physician named Angie Renee on Tinder.

Smith, according to testimony at the trial, performed oral sex on Etute, and Etute and two of his former teammates later visited Smith’s apartment to determine if he was a man or woman.

That May 31 encounter ended with Smith dead, with Turk arguing at trial that Etute acted in self-defense after Smith swung at him and reached under his mattress for something.

Police searching the apartment later found a knife hidden between the mattress and box spring in the spot where Etute alleged the attack took place.

Etute testified in court that he thought Smith was reaching for a gun, but didn’t mention that when he was first questioned by police.

That’s where things are going to be problematic for his future as a college football player.

Fair or not, the perception is going to be that while he was acquitted, he’s not necessarily not culpable in the death of Smith.

It’s going to feel like the acquittal is more about the gay-panic defense that Etute was able to have in his favor than a knife that was found later and the thought that Smith was reaching for something that Etute didn’t bring up until trial.

Wherever Etute might end up from here, reporters are going to ask questions, and there are going to be students and alums and community members who are going to want to know why their school has a guy with this big a cloud over him playing football.

Etute may very well be, in his attorney’s words, “probably a lot wiser and a much smarter and an exceptional athlete,” but he might not get that chance.

One thing we know for sure here: Jerry Smith doesn’t get another chance.

Story by Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page,