The former Virginia Tech football player accused of beating a Tinder date to death after mistaking him for a woman was acquitted of second-degree murder Friday.
Isimemen Etute, 19, was found not guilty in the 2021 death of Jerry Smith, 40, after his lawyer argued he acted in self-defense.
A Christiansburg, Virginia, jury deliberated for three hours before handing down the verdict, according to The Roanoke Times.
Etute had said he visited Smith last April to engage in oral sex, after matching with someone named “Angie” on Tinder. The next month, he returned to the victim’s apartment to verify his gender.
The linebacker then groped Smith before allegedly beating him to death, a detective testified.
Etute took the stand in his own defense earlier this week and said he felt “violated” that his date lied about his gender. The defendant said Smith had insisted they meet in the dark and had reached for what he thought was a gun.
Etute testified he punched Smith five times and kicked him to escape the apartment.
Police said Smith did not have a gun, but detectives found a knife under his mattress. Defense attorney Jimmy Turk argued that Etute acted in self-defense, and his fear and the victim’s weapon were not considered by police.
Prosecutor Patrick Jensen argued that Smith was in no position to get his knife, and said the 153-pound man was no physical match for the “elite college athlete” who was listed as 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.
“That’s a big disparity,” Jensen said.
Etute was suspended by Virginia Tech and the Hokies football team after being charged with murder.
With AP wires