A freshman on the Virginia Tech football team has been arrested and accused of murder in a death discovered Tuesday night.
Isimemen David Etute, 18, is being held without bond on a charge of second-degree murder, according to New River Valley authorities.
Police were dispatched at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday to do a welfare check in the 100 block of North Main Street in downtown Blacksburg and discovered a man dead, according to a police department news release.
Police identified the victim as Jerry Smith, 40, of Blacksburg. He and Etute knew each other, investigators said.
Etute was arrested Wednesday morning.
The arrest warrant listed the suspected date of the homicide as Monday. A police spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up question about the investigation’s timeline.
The Main Street address in downtown Blacksburg is a set of lofts above the Hokie Mart convenience store and Idego Coffee. Landlord Corky Cranwell said Smith had lived there since last year.
Cranwell was left shaken by the news of his death.
“He was always very polite,” she recalled. “He was a very vibrant individual.”
Smith did consulting work for Centro Taco Bar and was a former manager at D.P. Dough, according to managers at the two Blacksburg restaurants.
Cranwell said her heart went out to his loved ones.
“It’s a tragedy,” she said.
Blacksburg police said witnesses had been interviewed and were cooperating with investigators. Police have not said how Smith was killed.
On Tuesday night, Blacksburg police requested the previous three days’ worth of surveillance footage from cameras set up in the property’s hallway, according to property manager Anthony Maranto. An FBI agent followed up Wednesday morning and requested complete access to the property’s surveillance footage, he said.
He said there hadn’t been reports of anything unusual from tenants in the days surrounding Smith’s death.
Etute is from Virginia Beach and is majoring in human development, according to a statement issued by Virginia Tech. The linebacker was a 2021 signee out of Frank W. Cox High School who enrolled at midyear and practiced with the team during spring camp.
He was suspended from the football team and from the school after his arrest.
Virginia Tech said it was notified of the arrest Wednesday morning. The football’s team coaching staff has been in contact with the team throughout the day to talk with players.
“The Virginia Tech and Town of Blacksburg communities are united in our shared concern for the welfare of all,” read the university statement.
“Together, we denounce all acts of violence and stand together in support of one another. You don’t need to be close to this to be affected by this.”
The school included a list of counseling services and other supports available for students in its announcement.
Tech’s position coaches are reaching out directly to the parents of families.
“They feel responsible for our children,” Aubrey Hollifield said by phone Wednesday. “That’s one of the things, we’ve given them our children and they wanted to make sure we were OK.”
Aubrey’s son Jack was a 2021 early enrollee, joining his brother Dax Hollifield on the team. Jack Hollifield roomed with Etute in the dorms during the spring semester. Hollifield has since moved in with fellow tight end Jared Gibble, but his father was still shaken by the news.
“I didn’t know him, but he was up there when we visited and seemed to be a great kid,” Aubrey Hollifield said of Etute. “Jack spoke highly of him.”
Dax Hollifield did as well when he spoke about the then-high school senior at a news conference in December.
“Me and him got really close,” Dax Hollifield said at the time. “He’s a good guy. He has a lot of potential. I really look forward to seeing him develop.”
Etute’s case has been set for an arraignment hearing Thursday morning. He will appear virtually, a court clerk said.
On Monday, Etute was cited for multiple traffic violations in Radford, where he was pulled over at 4 p.m. driving a 2019 BMW SUV and charged with reckless driving and failure to obey a stop sign, according to court records. He is due for a court appearance in Radford on July 22.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact investigators by calling 540-443-1400, using the department’s anonymous tip line at 540-961-1819 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.