Man acquitted after killing gay man in Tinder catfish bashing

Isimemen Etute murder catfish accused virginia jury murder
Images: Supplied

A jury in the US state of Virginia has acquitted a former college football player who fatally bashed a gay man who tricked him into sex by pretending to be a woman on Tinder.

Former Viginia Tech footballer Isimemen Etute (above left), 19, was found not guilty of a second-degree murder charge in the April 2021 death of 40-year-old Jerry Smith (above right).

Etute told police he went to Smith’s apartment and received oral sex and a $50 gift after Smith posed as a woman on Tinder under the name “Angie” to meet straight men.

The next month, Etute returned to the victim’s apartment to verify Smith’s gender and became enraged after discovering Smith was a man, the Roanoke Times reported.

Etute told the court Smith had demanded they meet in the dark and the man hid his face. Etute said he discovered Smith was man by turning on his phone light.

During that second encounter, Etute testified that Smith reached for what he thought was a gun.

Etute testified he punched Smith five times and kicked and stomped on him to escape the apartment. Smith died from the injuries.

The court heard an autopsy report showed nearly all the bones in Smith’s face were broken, he suffered bleeding of the brain, and had teeth fragments missing.

Police said Smith did not have a gun, but detectives found a knife underneath the mattress.

Jury accepts murder accused’s self-defense argument

Prosecutor Patrick Jensen argued after Etute initially punched Smith to the floor, the man was no longer in a position to reach a hidden weapon.

Jensen also pointed out the “big disparity” in size between the two men.

He argued that while Etute had not planned to murder Smith, the “brutal beating” was wrongful and intentional.

The prosecutor told the court after his arrest Etute didn’t initially tell police about the weapon or his fear for his safety, and the man now had a motive to change his statement.

But defense attorney Jimmy Turk said that evidence was circumstantial. He told the jury police never asked Etute questions about the weapon or Etute’s fear while in the apartment.

The two questions would have shown Etute’s fear for his life, Turk said.

Etute earlier testified he felt “violated” when he discovered the Tinder match he believed to be a woman was actually a man.

But Turk argued to the jury Etute was not guilty by reason of self-defense, based on his fear over a hidden weapon.

Turk told the court the 19-year-old was “one of the finest young men I’ve ever had the experience of meeting”.

He said the “awful” situation came about only because of Smith’s “deliberate, wicked ruse… defrauding teenagers for his own sexual gratification.”

Ultimately, the jury did not take the option of convicting Etute of voluntary manslaughter.

The jury accepted Etute’s self-defense argument, finding him not guilty of the murder charges.

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