In 1993, the small village of Savona in New York learned of the horrific murder of a four-year-old boy, Derrick Robie. That shock was only surpassed by the fact that he was killed by a 13-year-old, Eric Smith. Now, CBS News’ ‘48 Hours: Eric Smith: Gambling On a Killer’ focuses on what led to the murder, its repercussions, and Eric’s release from prison. So, if you’re curious to find out more, we’ve got you covered.
Who is Eric Smith?
On August 2, 1993, four-year-old Derrick walked alone to a day camp in Savona. Sadly, the first time his parents let him out alone turned out to be the last. Derrick never made it to the camp, and the family reported him missing soon after. A desperate search for the kid ended in tragedy when they found his body close to the camp in the woods. Derrick had been strangled, had his head bashed in by a rock, and sodomized with a stick.
The brutal nature left everyone terrified, fearing for their children’s lives. Initial speculation regarding a drifter died down when teenager Eric Smith’s family brought him to the authorities. A family friend stated that in the days after the murder, Eric asked what would happen to the killer if he turned out to be a kid. He had also been in the area around the time of the murder. While Eric initially denied having anything to do with it, the confession came after a while.
Eric had a troubled childhood growing up in an abusive home. He later said that he was bullied at school for “my ears, my glasses, being short, my red hair, pretty much all of those.” Eric’s unresolved anger issues played a significant role in the murder. On that day, his mood was worse than usual after finding out the camp was not open when he got there on his bicycle. After seeing Derrick nearby, Eric decided to take his anger out on the four-year-old.
He lured Derrick into a secluded wooded area claiming to show a shortcut, and there, he strangled the kid. After that, Eric brought down a 26-pound rock on Derrick’s head and even sodomized him with a stick. Later, Eric claimed that he believed the stick would reach Derrick’s heart and stop it from beating. The case garnered national headlines in big part because of Eric and the victim’s age, in addition to the cruelty of the crime.
Where is Eric Smith Now?
Eric’s trial took place in 1994, and he was tried as an adult. The defense argued that he had an “intermittent explosive disorder” leading to uncontrollable violent episodes. However, Eric was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to nine years to life in prison. After serving time at a juvenile facility until 2001, Eric was moved to state prison. He was eligible for parole every two years after the initial nine years he served.
During Eric’s initial parole hearings, he admitted to feeling good while strangling Derrick because it was someone else being hurt instead of him. Later on, Eric also confessed that he would have probably killed again if he weren’t arrested in 1993. Over the years, though, Eric apologized for his actions, saying in 2014, “He (Derrick) didn’t deserve anything that I did to him; no one deserved that kind of violence.”
After keeping a clean disciplinary record since 2005 and undergoing years of therapy, Eric was granted parole in October 2021 on his eleventh attempt. After a slight delay, he was released from prison in February 2022. Now 42 years old, Eric would be under supervision for the rest of his life and has to check in with his parole officer regularly. Furthermore, he cannot leave the state without prior permission and cannot associate with others involved in illegal activities.
Eric now lives in Queens, New York, and got certifications in carpentry fabrication and electrical installation while in prison. Apart from looking for a job in that field, Eric stated that he wanted to become a counselor to help other kids. Furthermore, he mentioned that he was engaged; Eric fell in love with a woman who wrote to him while he was in prison. She was studying for her law degree and corresponded with him regarding the juvenile justice system.
Read More: Where Are Doreen and Dale Robie Now?