On August 2, 1993, four year old Derrick Robie was allowed by his mother to walk to camp alone, as she tended to his newborn sibling. The camp sat one block away from the Robie home in Savona, New York. Derrick’s life would meet a horrific end before he ever reached the camp.
In a sad twist of fate, Derrick encountered thirteen year old Eric Smith on his way. Eric had just been sent home from the program for the day, because of his behavior. Smith rode past him on his bicycle, then turned around to approach the young boy. Smith knew Derrick from the camp, having played kickball and baseball with him.
Smith convinced Derrick to take a shortcut through a wooded area. “You’ll be ok, I’m right here,” Smith reportedly told Derrick. Smith hid his bike in tall grass, so nobody would know they had gone into the woods. While in the woods, Smith wrapped his arm around Derrick’s neck and lifted him off of the ground until he passed out. Smith then picked up a twenty-six pound rock and repeatedly dropped it on Derrick’s head. He finally ended his attack by sodomizing Derrick’s lifeless body with a branch he found nearby.
Volunteers in the search for Derrick discovered his body around 4:30 that afternoon.
In the days following, Eric Smith admitted to his family what he had done. The family painted a grim portrait of their complete failure to act on his numerous violent tendencies. It would be discovered during trial that Eric had intermittent explosive disorder. He had admitted to his family that he had violent ideations, and was often told to “go hit a tree” when he was angry. His sister described Eric entering the home after these events with bloodied hands, but still angry.
According to court documents, Smith was a loner. He was often tormented by bullies for his large ears, thick glasses, red hair and freckles. He claimed this built up anger had caused him to kill Derrick. Smith stated in court that he sodomized Robie with a stick in order to ensure that he was dead.
Smith was sentenced to the maximum for juvenile offenders, nine years to life in prison. He was held in a juvenile facility for three years before being transferred to an open prison for young adults. In 2001, he was transferred to the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York.
Smith has been denied parole ten times since 2002, most recently in January 2020. He will next be eligible for parole in October 2021. The parole board cited a concern for public safety in its decision, and Robie’s parents opposing his release.