MONTGOMERY COUNTY, VIRGINIA. – On Thursday, Isimemen Etute took the stand in his own defense on the second day of his trial. Etute, 19, is charged with second-degree murder in the May 31, 2021 death of Jerry Smith, 40.
As reported by 10 News, Smith had introduced himself to Tinder as a woman named “Angie Renee,” which is how the two first connected on April 10, 2021.
During his testimony, Etute said his only reason for returning to Smith’s apartment the night Smith died was to find out who Angie really was. Etute told the court that when he discovered Angie was a man he felt “hurt” and worried for his safety.
The day began by showing the court a 45-minute interview between Etute and the Blacksburg Police Department as they first spoke to him about the incident.
During that interview, Etute did not tell police that Angie was attempting to reach for anything, which is a key point in the defense case.
Etute told jurors that Angie kept trying to grab something near the bed and he thought it was a gun. When police searched Smith’s home on the night of June 1, 2021, investigators found a large, serrated kitchen knife hidden between Smith’s mattress and box spring.
When Etute took the stand, he described his first interaction with Angie on April 10, 2021 as “patchy” because the apartment was pitch black, she wouldn’t show her face, and she paid him $50 after their first sexual encounter.
Etute testified that he blocked Angie, but after talking to his friends about their concerns about her true identity, he decided to find out who this person really was.
Etute told the court that his plan was to return to Angie’s apartment on May 31, pat down Angie’s body and use his cellphone’s flashlight to unveil her face. He said if Angie was a man his plan would be to run out of the apartment. He brought his two friends and former football team members, Jalen Hampton and Jordan Brunson, but both stayed in the hallway of Smith’s apartment complex.
Hampton testified that he matched with Angie on May 31, 2021 and went to her apartment that night. But he said he only took about a step into the apartment and said he left after about three to five minutes because he felt “uncomfortable” and feared being blackmailed, kidnapped, robbed or killed.
Hampton said he called Etute to inquire about Angie and the two discussed concerns about her true identity. They had a plan to confront Angie that night.
Etute said Jalen should follow him to “Angie’s” apartment just behind Etute, but Etute said Angie told Jalen to wait outside.
However, Hampton testified that the whole time Etute planned to go to the apartment alone.
On the witness stand, Etute described the events leading up to Smith’s death that night. He said after realizing Angie was a man, Etute said: “I felt hurt. I was just shocked and incredulous that someone had tricked me and lied to me.”
Etute said he kept seeing Smith reaching for something across the bed. “I thought he was going for a gun,” Etute said. “I didn’t want to be shot”
Etute described hitting Smith on the right side of the face, and Smith then fell on the floor next to the bed. Etute said Smith was still grabbing and “since I hit him three more times.”
And added that “everything happened so quickly”.
Etute then said as he stepped over Smith to exit the apartment, “I kicked him on the way out.”
Etute’s defense attorney Jimmy Turk asked Etute why he kicked Smith, and Etute said “to buy enough time to run out of the apartment before he could shoot me.”
Etute said he was hyperventilating and crying as he left and ran from the apartment because “I thought he was going to shoot me”.
“I didn’t think he was seriously hurt,” Etute said. “I’ve never gotten into a fight in my entire life.”
Etute said he only noticed a little blood on Smith’s nose.
Etute added he was “nervous and scared” when he went to the police for questioning.
During the police interview, investigators told Eute that Smith was dead. Earlier, Etute said he didn’t think Smith was seriously injured.
Turk asked Etute’s reaction upon learning of Smith’s death, and he said, “Honestly, I was devastated. I would never intentionally try to harm anyone, certainly not to the point of death. I was very angry. I broke down when they told me.”
The court heard from several other witnesses, including Hampton, Brunson and current Virginia Tech soccer player Emory Da’Shawn Elder.
Elder testified that on April 10, he took Etute to Angie’s apartment because Angie had said she would perform oral sex on both Elder and Etute. Elder said after following Angie and Etute upstairs to the bedroom he was scared. “It was dark and I just didn’t like the atmosphere,” Elder said. He said he then pretended to use his phone and left the apartment because “something just didn’t feel right.”
In court, Elder also said Angie told them one of Virginia Tech’s soccer coaches “punched” her.
At one point during the trial, the defense asked the judge to reduce Etue’s charge from second-degree murder to manslaughter, but the judge ruled that the jury could find evidence of malice which, under Virginia law, constitutes a charge of second-degree murder degrees are required.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Friday. The defense said they plan to summon three or four more witnesses.
10 News covered this case extensively. Below are previous articles on this case:
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