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Where Is Eric Smith, Who At 13 Tortured And Killed 4-Year-Old Derrick Robie, Now?
Eric Smith was 13 when he brutally killed 4-year-old Derrick Robie in a tiny village in rural New York. Now 43, he’s paroled and living in Queens.
In the summer of 1993, 4-year-old Derrick Joseph Robie set out alone to a local park in the little village of Savona, New York — a peaceful area in the state’s western half, only a short distance from the Pennsylvania border.
It was the first time Derrick’s mother, Doreen Robie, had ever allowed her child to go anywhere by himself, as she shared with CBS’ "48 Hours" last year. “He gave me a kiss and I said, ‘I love you,’” said Doreen. “He says, ‘I love you, Mom.’ And he went hopping off the sidewalk.”
It was the last time Derrick was reported to have been seen alive, save for the violent encounter, later on that August day, with his convicted killer. Eric Smith, at the time a 13-year-old local boy, was later arrested for Derrick’s brutal bludgeoning murder and would eventually serve 28 years in prison before being released on parole in February of 2022.
Who is Eric Smith?
Born Jan. 22, 1980 in Steuben County, New York — the same rural area where the Robie family made their home — Eric M. Smith grew up in Savona and related to the state parole board that his childhood was filled with ridicule outside his home, and domestic abuse within it.
As Smith told parole officials at an earlier hearing, he was bullied by his young peers for “my ears, my glasses, being short, my red hair, pretty much all of those,” citing unresolved anger stemming from his allegedly abusive past as his motive for luring Derrick to follow him into the woods, where Smith strangled and beat him to death with rocks.
Smith confessed to the crime shortly after Derrick’s mother reported her son missing, and would go on to be convicted as an adult for second-degree murder and sentenced to nine years to life in prison. Smith was denied parole 10 times before persuading the state parole board, in October of 2021, to release him.
“As to why, after years of reflection, looking back at who I was then and what was going on, I essentially became the bully that I disliked in my life,” Smith told the board, according to a 2021 report in the Rochester, New York-based Democrat and Chronicle. “I was constantly targeted for being weaker, smaller, and I became the bully toward [Derrick] and he didn't deserve it.”
What did Eric Smith do?
At age 13, Smith convinced 4-year-old Derrick Robie to follow him on a supposed shortcut to reach Derrick’s destination at the local park. But instead of showing Derrick the way, Smith led him into a wooded area, sodomized him with a stick, strangled him, and used nearby rocks to beat him to death.
Because Savona lies near U.S. Interstate 86, early speculation among locals entertained the possibility that Derrick’s killer wasn’t native to the area; that the perpetrator might instead have been someone only passing through. But after a week-long manhunt, Smith eventually admitted to the murder.
The tragic crime created a sensational news reporting ripple, in part because of the young ages of both the victim and the perpetrator, as well as for taking place in a peaceful, quiet village unfamiliar with shocking and violent acts.
Smith at first had denied his involvement in Derrick’s disappearance, though his behavior after the murder prompted an adult family friend to contact Smith's mother, who took him to speak with investigators. Speaking with the police about Derrick’s death, the 13-year-old Smith “totally enjoyed it. Didn't want it to end,” investigator John Hibsch, recalling the investigation, told "48 Hours" in 2022.
The murder had taken place on Aug. 2 of 1993. The following August, Smith was tried and sentenced for the crime, spending the early portion of his prison sentence at a juvenile detention facility before being transferred to a succession of adult prisons in the state after he reached 21 years of age.
Smith first became eligible for parole in 2002, and failed in 10 attempts to attain it. In the fall of 2021, however, the New York State Board of Parole granted Smith his freedom after his 11th hearing, though it would be the following February before he had secured the necessary outside housing for the state to end his incarceration. Smith was 42 years old at the time of his early-2022 release.
Where is Eric Smith now?
Now 43, Smith reportedly resides in the New York City borough of Queens, nearly 300 miles southeast of the small Savona village where he was raised and committed the violent crime.
“Steuben County is a small tight-knit community across the board; Savona is particularly,” Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker told Elmira, New York’s WETM-TV News after Smith had been paroled. “So the idea that he would come back to a place that he’s so traumatized, and this crime traumatized the entire community, galvanized the entire community ... the idea of him being back here and being on the streets with all those people who were so affected by this crime particularly in ... Savona itself where the victim’s family still lives ... there is really no degree of separation between many of the families.”
At the parole hearing that won him his freedom, Smith said he had gained perspective and grown beyond the troubled teenager he was at the time he took Derrick’s life, and that he grasps as an adult the irrevocable loss that his actions on that fateful 1993 day had caused.
“He could have been a lawyer, he could have been a teacher causing more students to be better men and women as they get older," Smith said at the time. "All the different things that he could have done professionally in those areas I took from him because of my own selfishness and wanting to lash out instead of speaking to someone who could have given me insight.”
“I'm not the same person, and while that in itself doesn't take away their anguish and pain, I would hope to convey to them that while I am remorseful I realize the depths to some extent. Because I can't really fully understand the depth of how Derrick's mom feels. I can never fully understand the depth of how Derrick's father feels.”
Derrick’s parents, Doreen and Dale Robie, both were still living at the time of Smith’s parole, and objected to the idea that he could be freed and return to live in the community still keenly aware of his actions three decades ago.
“I wasn't so much worried about us as I was everybody else,” Doreen told "48 Hours" in the family's 2022 interview.
“I just knew where a lot of people in town in the village stood,” her husband added.