Federal court documents suggest hate crime investigation against murder suspect Etute

Isimemen Etute in court for a preliminary hearing in September 2021.
Isimemen Etute in court for a preliminary hearing in September 2021.(Pool)
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 9:46 AM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Newly unsealed federal search warrants show former Virginia Tech football player Isimemen Etute was the subject of a federal hate crime investigation.

Federal documents also name two other Virginia Tech football players investigators believe were with Etute when he met with the Blacksburg man he is accused of beating to death. A third player was also involved in conversations about the incident.

WDBJ7 is not identifying the names of the other football players, as they have not been charged.

Etute, 19, is charged with second-degree murder for the death of Jerry Paul Smith, 40, found dead in his apartment June 1. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force injuries to the head.

In previous court hearings, Etute’s attorney, Jimmy Turk, provided some details about the apparent link between the suspect and the victim. He said Etute and Smith had matched on the dating site Tinder, but Smith’s Tinder profile indicated he was a woman named Angie. The Commonwealth’s Attorney says the two first met April 10 for oral sex, and Etute didn’t realize Smith was a man until they met again May 31.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney says Etute punched Smith five times in the head, making Smith fall, at which point Etute stepped on Smith’s head until blood was bubbling from him. An exam indicated every bone in Smith’s face was broken, and he had missing and broken teeth.

Etute did not call police after the attack, according to the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Turk laid out his case in June 2021 for granting bond for the suspect, having Etute and his mother take the stand. Etute’s mother told the court her son is not a flight risk and had never been in any trouble. She also spoke about how he would help take care of his younger sister with special needs.

Etute graduated high school early to start at Virginia Tech in January. During the investigation, Etute is on suspension from Virginia Tech and its football team

Etute was released on bond in June 2021 after being ordered by a judge to stay with his parents and keep in contact with his attorney.

You can read more on the case here.

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