On August 2nd 1993 in the Steuben County village of Savana, 13 year old Eric Smith was riding his bike down McCoy Street when he passed 4 year old Derrick Robie walking the 100 yards from his home to a summer recreation program being held in the village park.
Smith recognised young Derrick from the recreational program as they had played baseball and checkers together. Eric stopped and persuaded Derrick to take a short cut through a small patch of woods with him. Hiding his bike they set off on foot together.
Once in the woods, Smith choked the young boy by putting his arm around his neck. The boy fell to the ground and Eric proceeded to drop a 26lb rock on the boys head beating him several times. Finally Derrick’s body was violated with a stick.
Volunteers searching the area at 4.30pm discovered the body. A week later Eric Smith calmly confessed to the murder. Eric claimed that other children constantly bullied him and drove him to kill Derrick. Smith had shown disturbing behaviour from a young age. When he was 9, Eric strangled his neighbours cat.
During his trial the defence argued that he suffered from “Intermittent Explosive Disorder” which led to uncontrollable violent impulses. In November 1994 Smith was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to nine years to life in prison, the maximum penalty in the state of New York.
He was sent to a youth detention centre in upstate New York. In January 2001 at the age of 21 he was transferred to the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. Here he applied for parole but was denied.
In December 2004 due to another parole hearing, Smith broke his silence after a decade and for the first time talked about the murder and what drove him to it. Eric having had years of therapy now wanted to convince the parole board that he had been rehabilitated.
In a statement Smith directly speaks to the Robie family and says “I know my actions have caused a terrible loss in the Robie family, and for that I am truly sorry. I have tried to think as much as possible about what Derrick will never experience, His 16th Birthday, Christmas, Anytime, owning his own home, 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 and suffering I caused him, If it meant that he would go on living, I would switch places, but I can’t”
Prosecutors at the original hearing do not think he should be released. His next parole hearing is in 2006, he could remain in prison for life. Jury members stated that he should serve at least 25 years in prison.
Follow up -
The residents of Savana erected a memorial to Derrick. A statue of him aged 4 swinging a baseball bat. The site where the boy was found has been cleared and turned into a baseball field.