A Virginia Tech football player is currently awaiting trial in the murder of a 40-year-old restaurant worker who catfished the young athlete on a dating app, officials said.
Ismemen Etute, 18, is accused of breaking all the bones in Jerry Smith’s face, killing him, in a vicious beating prosecutors allege occurred after the two matched on Tinder.
In April, Etute met with Smith at his apartment in the small city of Blacksburg, Virginia. He told detective he’d went to the apartment for oral sex after connecting with an individual he identified as “Angie” on the dating app, according to the Roanoake Times.
On May 31, the varsity football player allegedly came back to Smith’s apartment and learned his date was a man, the newspaper reported.
Etute admitted to punching Smith five times in the face. The linebacker also said he “stomped” on the 40-year-old and later heard “bubbling and gurgling” coming from Smith prior to exiting the apartment, Fox 46 reported. Etute didn’t immediately contact authorities.
Smith died of blunt force trauma to the head, an autopsy showed. He had missing teeth and all the bones in his face had been broken, according to the Roanoke Times.
His corpse was found by law enforcement the following day. Etute is now facing second-degree murder charges in the suspected beating death of Smith.
Etute, shackled, and clad in an orange jumpsuit, appeared in court on Wednesday, the Virginian-Pilot reported. Several of his Virginia Tech teammates, clad in their uniforms, as well as his family members, were present.
During the hearing, Etute’s attorney, Jimmy Turk, argued that the case was “more than someone just showing up to an apartment and punching someone.”
“I’ve tried more than 100 murder cases in my lifetime, and normally I don’t even ask for bail,” Turk told the judge, the Roanoke Times reported. “If there’s ever been a time for someone to be considered for bail, this is it.”
Etute was ultimately freed on Wednesday on a $75,000 secured bond. He must submit to house arrest and electronic monitoring.
Turk said that Etute was remorseful and had confided in his attorney that the consequences of his actions in Smith’s apartment had hit him “real hard.”
“I’m trying to stay strong for the people that support me, I feel like I’ve let a lot of people down,” Etute reportedly told his lawyer. “I’m truly sorry for my actions.”
The 18-year-old’s defense lawyer later addressed the media following the hearing.
“Nobody deserves to die, but I don’t mind saying, don’t pretend you are something that you are not,” Turk said. “Don’t target or lure anyone under that perception. That’s just wrong.”
Smith’s relatives reportedly declined to speak with local media following Etute’s court appearance.
Etute is a rookie linebacker for the Virginia Tech Hokies. He was preparing for his first season with the team at the time of Smith’s murder. Last week, Etute was issued a team suspension. As of Friday, the Virginia Tech linebacker’s team profile had been removed from the school’s website.
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