Eric Smith was 13-years-old when he killed 4-year-old Derrick Robie, and then four days later he joined the ongoing investigation to find Derrick’s killer.
“He didn’t deserve anything I did to him, no one deserved that kind of violence, What I did to him was brutal.”Eric Smith during his 2014 parole hearing
On 2nd August 1993, 4-year-old Derrick Robie was very excited about the program he was going to attend, but his mother wasn’t ready to take him there. So Derrick decided to walk all by himself, he said to his mother, “It’s ok, Mom. I’ll go by myself.”
Derrick gave her mother a kiss and said ‘I love you,’ and went hopping off the sidewalk. The park was at the end of the street, Derrick had only one block to go and no streets to cross. Sadly it was the first time his mother has let him go anywhere alone, and that was the last time anyone from Derrick’s family had seen him alive.
Eric Smith Childhood
When Eric was a toddler his father left his mother and denied his parentage, although his father was later ordered by the court to pay child support. He loved spending time with his grandparents, “he would always come in and give us hugs and kisses.” said his grandfather Red.
Eric had problems from the beginning, he threw temper tantrums and banged his head on the floor. He also had speech problems and this was one of the reason why he was relentlessly bullied in his school.
When Eric was a young child he killed, tortured, and disemboweled animals. He once set fire to the family stove. Smith didn’t fit in with his friends, with his fiery red hair, large ears, and because of his poor eyesight, he was forced to wear thick glasses.
Smith was bullied as a child at his school for his appearance as the “class clown,” he was held back two years due to undiagnosed learning difficulties and at the age of 13, he was only in grade five.
However, Eric had been diagnosed by a defense psychiatrist with an intermittent explosive disorder, a mental disorder that causes individuals to be violent and unpredictable, they examined him but found nothing to explain his violent behavior. Eric didn’t have many friends and was seen riding around a bicycle alone for hours., he was also bullied for the size of his ears.
However, the details later emerged out that Eric Smith’s mother took an epilepsy drug, Tridion, which is known to cause birth defects. So far, it has been speculated that this was the main reason behind Smith’s later violent behavior.
Murder of Derrick Robie
The murder of Derrick Robie made national headlines, because of the age of the killer and of the victim. In the summer of 1993, Eric enrolled in a recreation program. The program might have done well for him, to get out and socialize with others despite his poor experience in the past.
Eric Smith was 13-year-old at the time, he was riding his bike after being told to leave the ‘day camp’ due to bad behavior, unfortunately for Derrick Robie, he was also walking to the same camp.
Smith saw Derrick and pulled his bike over, he lured Derrick into a nearby wooded area, where he later killed Derrick Robie. Smith strangled him, and then dropped a large rock on Derrick’s head before killing him, and after Derrick was dead he undressed him and sodomized him with a tree limb. The cause of Derrick’s death was determined to be blunt trauma to the head with contributing asphyxia.
Smith took out Derrick’s lunch bag and took Derrick’s Kool-Aid and poured it into Derrick’s wounds. Smith removed his shoes and placed each sneaker beside one of his hands. Smith then left, but kept coming back to his body, as he had doubts, ‘what if he wasn’t dead?’ He spent an hour with Derrick’s dead body before finally returning home.
A Few hours later Derrick’s mother went to the park to pick him up but was shocked to hear that he never arrived at the day camp, she informed the police and after four hours of investigation Derrick’s body was found.
Arrest and Trial
Four days after the murder of Derrick Robie, Eric Smith went to police station with his stepfather to see if he could be of help in solving the crime.
At first, Smith denied seeing Derrick on his way back home, but soon he changed his story, he told that he saw Derrick right across the street from the open field, and that was the exact position where Derrick’s body was found.
When one of the investigators asked him about what Derrick was wearing that day? Smith was not only able to describe what Derrick was wearing, but he also mentioned the lunch box he was carrying.
During the conversation at the station, Smith seemed pretty excited and calm, no one could have imagined a 13-year-old boy who killed someone, would be so calm and not scared.
However, his voice began to crack when he was asked where he last saw Derrick? At one point in the conversation, he asked the officers, “You think I killed him, don’t you?”
Five days after his murder, Derrick Robie was buried in his Baseball uniform and just two days later his killer, Eric Smith confessed.
On August 8th, Eric confessed to his parents and his great-grandfather took him back to the police station, where he was arrested. The whole community of Savona was stunned, no one could’ve believed that a child can murder another child.
On 16th August 1994, Eric Smith was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to the maximum term available for juvenile murders. Smith wrote an apology letter to Derrick’s family while in jail, he read his letter on the public television:
“I know my actions have caused a terrible loss to the Robie family, and for that, I am truly sorry. I’ve tried to think as much as possible about what Derrick will never experience; his 16th birthday, Christmas, anytime, owning his own house, graduating, going to college, getting married, his first child. If I could go back in time, I would switch places with Derrick and endure all the pain I’ve caused him. If it meant that he would go on living, I’d switch places, but I can’t.”Eric Smith’s apology letter to Derrick Robie’s family.
Smith also mentioned that he cannot bear the thought of “walls, razor wire, and steel metal bars for the rest of his life.” Smith has also apologized to Derrick Robie in his interviews.
Eric Smith Now
Smith said in his 2014 interview, “I took my anger and frustration and rage out on him.” He told the board that his emotions weren’t directed at Derrick, but his own family members, his father, older sister and some of the school children who bullied him. Derrick was at the wrong place wrong time. “I took it out on Derrick, and he did not deserve that.”
Eric Smith who turned 40 this year, is housed in Woodburn Correctional Facility in the Catskills, he has been incarcerated since 1994. Smith has been denied parole ten times since he was first eligible for parole in 2002. He will next be eligible for parole in October 2021.
Now that you’ve read about Eric Smith, read about the deadly duo of serial killer – Ken and Barbie Killers.