Eric Smith: Who is he and what did he do?

Isabella Barberio | Staff Writer

Eric Smith was 13 when he murdered a child. Now he's back in the headlines.  - CBS News

Eric Smith was just 13 years old when he murdered 4-year-old Derrick Robie in Savona, New York. His story made national headlines and the jury unanimously found Smith guilty of second-degree murder.

After luring Robie into the Steuben County woods, strangling him, beating him with rocks, and sodomizing him with a stick, Smith confessed and was arrested. He was tried as an adult in 1993.

Although Smith’s defense attorney made the argument that Smith “suffers from a mental disease that can be characterized as a rage disorder”, the prosecutor said that Smith knew what he was doing and that he should be held fully responsible for his actions.

Smith was sentenced of nine years to life, and was released on February 1, 2022, from the Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County, New York.

Smith, who is now 41 years old, became eligible for parole in 2002. He was previously denied parole 10 times before the Board of Parole granted his release, which followed an October 5 appearance.

Smith stayed in a juvenile facility until 2001, where he was then transferred to a state prison. There are very strict conditions on Smith’s parole, some of them are that he cannot leave New York state without permission, he must have regular contact with his parole officer, he cannot possess any firearms or other deadly weapons and he cannot associate with others who are known to be engaged in illegal activity.

The parents of Derrick Robie, Doreen and Dale, have openly opposed the release. They have used their son’s murder to push for stricter limits on parole hearings, which included requiring felony offenders to wait five years, as opposed to two, between hearings.

On August 8, 1993, Eric Smith confessed to the murder. As his family was begging him to tell them what he saw happen that day, Eric confessed. “I’m sorry Mom. I’m sorry. I killed that little boy” were the words that his grandma recalled hearing that day.

In December 2009, Eric Smith spoke out about his arrest and the murder of Derrick Robie. While being interviewed by WENY-TV, 30-year-old Smith said that his anger during the time of the murder “wasn’t directed towards Derrick at all.”

He then began to explain that it was directed towards the boys who used to tease him in school. Later in the interview Smith confessed his remorse and even said “if I could switch places with him and take the grave for him to live, I’d do it in second.” Eric Smith’s story became a national media sensation.

People across the country were perplexed with the idea that a young, innocent-looking boy would commit such a terrible crime.